To follow up with my visit to Antalya's classroom, Jason and I decided we needed to throw a big birthday bash for Antalya and invite all of her classmates and they other kids with Down syndrome in her school, so they could interact with Antalya in a fun, controlled-by-us, environment, and see that other people have Down syndrome too.
Her birthday fell during Fall Break, so we had to postpone the party for the week after her birthday, but I don't think Antalya minded.
I was worried we wouldn't get many people, but ended up with almost every child in her class, plus the kids from her special ed class. In total, we had about 30 little kids running around our place.
Luckily the weather was amazing and we were able to keep all the activities outside.
The goal was to create a party set up that would allow all the children to have fun, and give Antalya the flexibility to interact with them without having to participate in all the activities if she didn't want to. The last thing I wanted was for either her or me to get frustrated because it was time to play a certain game and Antalya didn't want to. So we came up with a carnival theme, and then made some changes to turn it into a Halloween party.
We had a food table that the kids could help themselves to, and different stations set up around the yard with games and prizes. My brother-in-law was kind enough to make balloon animals for all the kids. The stations were pin the face on the pumpkin, pumpkin bean bag toss, pumpkin bowling, donuts on a string, and making carmel apples. I had adults at all the stations to help the kids and give them their prizes.
When everyone was through with the games, we broke open the piñata and had cupcakes. The Birthday Girl was on cloud 9 all evening from all the attention and presents, and all of the kids left happy. I consider the party a huge success!
It was a lot of work to plan and put on, but I have really noticed a difference just in the last week in the way her classmates treat her. One of the cutest things that happened at the party was when a little girl walked up to me and said, pointing to one of Antalya's friends with DS, "does that girl have Down syndrome too?" I think it helped her classmates to see that other kids have DS, and it's alright because they can all have fun together.