Educating students on Down syndrome and the ‘R’ word

Nicholas Walsifer [center] along with his mom Kerri [from left], dad Nick and sisters Victoria and Valentina all wore T-shirts to celebrate National Down Syndrome Awareness Day on Thursday, March 21. COURTESY OF KERRI WALSIFER

SEA GIRT — Seventh-grader Victoria Walsifer spoke with the fifth-grade class at Sea Girt Elementary School [SGES] to help students understand the “R” word.

“This project started because most of the kids in pre-high use the ‘R’ word and I didn’t really think they knew what it meant,” Victoria said.

The “R” word Victoria referred to is the word “retarded” and according to Carly Fanslau, director of student services, the word is making a resurgence in the everyday vocabulary of preteens at SGES and the surrounding area.

However for Victoria, whose younger brother Nicholas has Down syndrome, this was not acceptable.

According to their mother Kerri, talking to Nicholas’ class was something the family had wanted to do and they decided fifth grade was the right time.

According to Victoria, it was important to talk to her brother’s class because even though they may have known Nicholas for years, they might have questions and she wanted to explain that just because he is different “doesn’t mean he doesn’t have feelings or that he can’t do the things like us, he just does them at a different pace.”

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