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gillian marchenko

Author and Speaker


Introducing children with Down syndrome into the classroom: Free take home sheet PDF download


Introducing children with Down syndrome in the classroom: Free take home sheet PDF download

The following letter is part of the take home sheet I give to Polly’s class every year.

I visit the classroom, read a book, and talk to the children about Down syndrome. It’s always a great time, and a fabulous way to promote inclusion. Kids feel much more comfortable if they can talk about things. They ask questions, I do my best to answer, and Polly, now that she is six years old, joins in the conversation.

Hey Room _____ parents!

Meet Polly!

This is Polly. She is six years old and thrilled to be at _______________ school this year, just like her two older sisters (Elaina- 6th grade and Zoya -5th grade).

Ms. ________ graciously invited me to read a book to the students. I chose “My Friend Isabelle” by Eliza Woloson. It’s a fun book about a typical friendship between a little boy named Charlie and his friend Isabelle. Throughout their play-date, Charlie talks about how he and Isabelle are both alike and different.

“I run fast. Isabelle takes her time.”

“We drink apple juice and eat Cheerios at the little red table and chairs.”

Isabelle and Polly have something in common, too.

They both have Down syndrome.

Today at school, I attempted to provide a kindergarten appropriate definition of Down syndrome for Polly’s classmates:

“Down syndrome is something that causes differences in the way a child looks and learns. Babies with Down syndrome are born with an extra chromosome in some or all of their cells. Chromosomes are tiny, thread-shaped things inside your body. They contain the directions that tell your body how to grow. These directions tell your body what color your eyes and hair will be, how big your nose will be, whether you will be a good singer, and many other things. When a kid has an extra chromosome, it mixes up his body’s directions a little. That is why kids with Down syndrome look a little different from others sometimes and have to try harder to learn.”(adapted from “We’ll Paint the Octopus Red” discussion points at the back of the book)

I would love to see all our kids in Rm.108 have a fabulous year. In that vein, I’d like to ask you to talk to your child about “My Friend Isabelle.” You can talk about:

The definition of Down syndrome

Differences and similarities between your child and other classmates

How different doesn’t mean bad

How to be a good friend at school

That Polly may need a little more time to learn things, but she will learn

If you have any questions for me or Polly, we’re happy to try to answer them. And just like Charlie and Isabelle, we love play-dates!


Gillian Marchenko, Polly’s Mom

Download a free PDF to use for your child’s classroom by clicking the link below.

*CLICK THIS TO GET YOUR Down syndrome take home sheet or click on the button on the side of this page under free!

*Wanna help parents in your class open up conversation with their kids about special needs? Check out my recent article at Chicago Parent!

*Want something simple you can give to your child’s teacher about Down syndrome. Here is my 10 things teachers should know about Down syndrome post (with a free pdf).

*Want to know more about my parenting journey with Down syndrome? Check out my newly published memoir, Sun Shine Down, on Amazon.

And have a great year :).

Did you like this? Share it:
  1. Jen says:

    Hey Lady! I just published a blog post that links to yours. The letter was a great idea. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  2. […] In an inclusive setting, teachers should talk to their class and explain Down syndrome. At the beginning of each school year, I visit Polly’s class to discuss Down syndrome. Invite the parent to come help! Here’s a post that will tell you exactly how to teach kids about Down syndrome. […]

  3. Sherri says:

    I saw this on a friend’s FB page and checked it out! I absolutely LOVE it! Thank you. My daughter is starting 1st grade this year – regular ed no life skills and I’m a bit nervous. We were told at the IEP meeting that she is the first Down syndrome child they’ve had in the school in a very long time and they are very excited to have Abby at their school. I think I will print this out and send it to her teacher for her first week of school. Again, thank you for helping me find the words.

    • I’m so glad it will be helpful Sherri! I do it every year for my daughter Polly’s class. The kids love it, I love it, an Polly loves it. It really sets the tone. Have a great year, and keep me posted!

  4. I can’t thank you enough! My favorite book for young children is My Friend Isabelle. I’ve been sharing it for a few years now, so I was excited to see you endorse it here. The letter is perfect! I’ve customized it and am sending it to John Michael’s teacher today. Thanks!

  5. I really loved this… so simple to customize and the information is perfect for parents of young kids to absorb. I tailored it to fit my needs, as well as added a link to the NDSS You Tube channel of the real Charlie reading the book “My Friend Isabelle”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must watch and share…
    You can find my blog post and letter, to which you are credited, here:
    Thanks again!

  6. […] Introducing children with Down syndrome to the classroom […]

  7. […] going on today, Mom?” ready to accept the answer with joy and vigor, her sisters teaching their classmates about Down syndrome, Polly thanking the nurse after a shot, her hard earned walk turning into a run, her body stopping […]

  8. Donna says:

    Love this! I am one of 3 3rd grade teachers at a small school and my nine year old son will be in my homeroom this year. Very excited and a bit nervous about it! I have definitely witnessed how teacher’s tone can impact the whole class and in our case the whole grade.

  9. Erica says:

    This is amazing! I am going to do this for my son’s K-4 class and especially when we start “Big School” next year! Thanks for sharing!!!

  10. […] In an inclusive setting, teachers should talk to their class and explain Down syndrome. At the beginning of each school year, I visit Polly’s class to discuss Down syndrome. Invite the parent to come help! Here’s a post that will tell you exactly how to teach kids about Down syndrome. […]

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