Accepting the differences

RED BAY – Being different than everyone else around you can be difficult at any age, but it can be especially hard when you are a child.

However, children can also be one of the most accepting groups, something that students at Red Bay School proved on this year’s World Down Syndrome Day on March 21.

Renee Knoblock said when someone meets her five-year-old son, Sawyer, who has Down Syndrome, what will probably stand out the most is the fact that Sawyer has a larger than life personality that will win anyone over.

“Sawyer is a spunky, vibrant little boy with an incredible talent for making other people smile,” Knoblock said.

“He is stubborn and strong and can be quite a handful, but most of all, he is love in the flesh.”

And Sawyer has used that spunky, vibrant personality and his capacity to love those around him to make many friends at Red Bay School, both within his pre-k class and throughout the rest of the school.

This fact made celebrating the special person he is something every person in the school wanted to get in on.

Jill Hester, who teaches the pre-k class that Sawyer is a part of, said students took part in “Rock Your Socks for Sawyer” on March 21 as a way to show their support for Sawyer and to also raise awareness for World Down Syndrome Day.

On that day, all students at Red Bay School wore colorful, crazy socks – something Knoblock said was their own take on other activities people do worldwide in order to raise awareness for Down Syndrome.

“Rock your socks is actually a take on “Lots of Socks,” which is where you can purchase socks and the money helps support people with Downs,” she said.

“We have celebrated World Down Syndrome Day the last two years, and this year we did fun, crazy, exciting socks because that is how our lives have been since Sawyer came along.

“The idea is for the socks to be a conversation starter so we can spread Down Syndrome awareness. It’s also a great way to teach children it’s ok to be different and stand out, even if it’s just by your socks.”

Hester said the students in her pre-k class and across the school loved celebrating Sawyer and helping to raise awareness.

“Just like our socks were diverse, our students are also diverse,” Hester said.

“I believe it was important to recognize Down Syndrome Day so our students and faculty can see that there are differences we all have – whether it’s differences in our hair, skin tone, height or abilities, or a genetic difference, these differences are what make each person unique.

“Involving all students who wished to take part in this event helped celebrate all our differences, not just Sawyer’s, and also united students and faculty in support of Sawyer and the differences that make each of us unique.”

Knoblock said it was her hope that the students would continue to make “Rock Your Socks for Sawyer” an annual event on World Down Syndrome Day.

“I think it’s important for children to learn early that we should celebrate our differences and love and support one another,” Knoblock said.

“It means a lot to me that the parents of Sawyer’s classmates are teaching them these things early. They may not have understood completely why we wore those socks for Sawyer, but as the years go by they will.”

Knoblock said they have received so much support – from their family, from friends, and from Sawyer’s classmates – but she knows there are other people who aren’t as lucky.

“Sawyer is the youngest of five children, and his brothers and sisters are his biggest supporters,” she said. “I don’t know what we would do without this big support system.

“If there is any way I can help other families that may not have such a large support system, I would be glad to do that. I have lots of friends who have children with Downs, but I know there are more out there and they are all in need of someone who understands.”


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