In grade 5, I was blessed by meeting a very special little girl named Mackenzie. Mackenzie is an amazing person who is full of potential. Mackenzie also happens to have Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome is a developmental disability that causes affected individuals to experience an array of physical and mental challenges. However, Mackenzie did not struggle the most with her slurred speech or poor muscle tone. Instead, she constantly found herself battling social issues like bullying and exclusion.
Everything for Mackenzie was new. A new school, a new house and trying to make new friends. Like anyone else in this situation, Mackenzie had difficulty adjusting. She wasn't provided with a full-time educational assistant so, instead, she spent most of the day sitting in the corner of the class beside me. I noticed that Mackenzie was having extreme amounts of difficulty communicating with the teacher and other students. Being the only one in the class who could decipher what she was trying to say and relay the message to the appropriate person, I turned into Mackenzie's right hand woman. Every day I would bring in worksheets for her to complete when in class and was there for her when she had meltdowns at recess.
No one was too quick to be friends with Mackenzie and some even bullied her. Whether it be imitating the way she spoke or purposely trying to make her mad, she was affected by bullying on many different occasions. I tell myself that the other students only bothered her because they didn't understand her condition, and I pray that this is true, but I wonder if that really was the case. Because of how well we worked together and how comfortable Mackenzie was with me, we became very close friends and still are.
Mackenzie's story is not unique. Many other people with developmental disabilities are in need of support that simply isn't there. Mackenzie has inspired me to be an advocate for others like herself by pursuing a career in social work.