We spoke with Erin Klones and Courtney Criss, our own Down Syndrome Community members, who created the incredible Ready, Set, Kindergarten program, a much needed resource and knowledge building class available for our members with children entering Kindergarten in the coming year or two.
What inspired you to develop Ready, Set, Kindergarten?
We were inspired by the attending many inclusion conferences and workshops including All Born (in) in Portland and NDSC national conference and wanting to have an option in the Puget Sound area. We also heard from parents who had their kids fully included in general education and parents who wished theirs were. We recognized the need for knowledge about inclusion in the Puget Sound area and wanted to be involved in changing the system. We also wanted to empower ourselves as parental advocates for our own children with Down syndrome, both of whom will start Kindergarten this fall.
What does the series of classes include?
We wanted RSK to be a combination of education, advocacy, and support. Our program consists of 6 sessions starting in October and finishing in April, for parents of kids who are entering Kindergarten the next fall. Each session is a different topic including advocacy, IEPs, accommodations, behavior, and a parent panel. We also have plenty of opportunities for discussion and questions. We want parents to form a community to ask questions and share experiences.
Who do you invite to participate in the program?
We choose our speakers from the community and try and find those who have expertise related to kids with Down syndrome and/or the education system. Past speakers have included teachers from the Learning Program, staff from the EEU, and local education advocates. This past year, our last session was a panel of past RSK parent participants, parents of older children who are advocating for inclusive education, and a self-advocate with Down syndrome who was included during her education.
How has your program influenced families heading into kindergarten?
Graduating parents from our program gain strength and confidence to know their children’s rights and how best they will succeed in school. They have also formed a support system with other parents so they can continue to ask questions and learning from each other. We also hope that these parents become advocates for inclusive education beyond their own children, and that they are empowered to help other parents, schools and school districts create inclusive schools.
What is the future for RSK?
We hope to continue having this program, now in its third year, for many years and have as many parents as possible be involved. We also hope to make systemic changes in our local school districts. The DSC is also hoping to launch other versions of this program such as Ready, Set, Preschool and Ready, Set, High School.
How can families get involved now in your program?
A huge thanks to Courtney and Erin for seeing a need and providing a solution for our community. For more information and registration, click HERE.