Ben Severian is the first student with Down syndrome to attend Xavierian Catholic High School. "Xaverian Brother James Kelly, president of the school, said it's "a testament to the caliber of our students" that Ben has been warmly embraced. No one has ever picked on Ben. Students have instead gone out of their way to help him, he said.
"I think he inspires them," said Brother James, noting that Mount St. Joseph is the first Xaverian school in the country to accept a child with Down syndrome.
"They see him working hard and struggling to learn while some of the others can be lazy at times," he said. "He's a great blessing to our community."
Brian Abbo, a 15-year-old classmate and Ben's best friend, said students feel close to Ben because he is a genuine and caring person.
"With Ben, you can't get mad," said Brian. "He never does anything to hurt you. He's not going to judge you. He considers everyone his friend."
The biggest challenge to enrolling students like Ben is the financial cost, according to Brother James. The inclusion program launched with Ben's enrollment is being funded this year by a grant from the Catholic Coalition for Special Education. The St. Giles program, named after the patron saint of people with disabilities, is currently operating on a year-to-year basis depending on the availability of funding, but Brother James would like to add another student with special needs next year. "
Many more options are being offered to children with Down syndrome than ever before.
School districts are beginning to be open to providing therapies to children who do not necessarily attend their schools, but may attend private schools or homeschool.
My daughter Christina will not be attending Kindergarten in the public school, I plan to send her to part time Montessori pre-school where she can learn at her own pace.She loves the hands-on activities which she selects, and is able to use until she has learned what she needs to learn. Christina will, however, attend 10 hours of therapy provided for the district, three hours in the school, and seven hours at home.