Photo: Aubray Lynas
Starting kindergarten is a huge deal for any kid—and let’s be real, for their parents too—but when a child has special needs it can be even more nerve-wracking, so this mom decided to do something to make it easier.
Four-year-old Phoebe is visually impaired, and while she loves making new friends and doing all the same things that other kids her age enjoy, it can sometimes be hard for her peers or even well-meaning adults to know how to include her.
That’s why she and her mom, Aubray Lynas, decided to write a note to send home with all her new junior kindergarten classmates during the first week of school. “The objective is to take away any mystery and to open a dialogue with anyone who may be curious.”
The touching letter describes some of Phoebe’s impressive abilities: For example, she has an amazing sense of hearing and independence to do any number of skills—from maneuvering the playground and stairs by herself to riding a trike. But there are also things she’d like help with: “I like to know what is around me so please don’t hesitate to give me descriptions because I won’t necessarily see everything. I ask a lot of questions because I need to know.”
While Phoebe and her new JK class will certainly benefit from the informative introduction, we think everyone could learn from this open and honest approach to including kids with special needs.
Read the full letter here:
Hello my name is Phoebe. I'm in Mr. Boyd's class with your child and I wanted to send home a note with all my new friends in case they have any questions about me.
Kindergarten is a big step for all of us, but I'm especially nervous because I am visually impaired. I see up close (best within 1-2 feet from my left peripheral) and I see colours if I try hard, but for the most part, the world is a blur to me. I use my hands a lot because my sense of touch gives me a lot of information--they’re kind of like my eyes. I have amazing hearing and I can identify a lot of sounds. If I don’t recognize a sound I will ask what it is, but don’t hesitate to tell me because I like to know/learn about new sounds. I am really good at recognizing voices—I can usually tell who is in the room by their voice. Although I would encourage you to please approach me and say hello, or introduce yourself if I don’t know you. That’s how we will get to know each other.
Sometimes I need a little help with certain things, but once I’m taught I’m able to do most things on my own. My visual impairment does not stop me from doing all the things that other children my age do. I can give you some examples: I love playing in the sand outdoors, going down the slide, riding a trike and getting dirty. In the beginning I was unsure about the outdoor play, but once I was shown around and my teachers described where everything was I became comfortable and needed no help. I go down the slide, build sandcastles and ride my bike all on my own. The one thing I can't do is catch a ball, or play stick related sports so no need to invite me to play these types of sports.
You will see that I travel around using a white cane. I use this cane because I want to be independent. It helps give me information about what is around me and it keeps me safe. I am pretty good at using my cane and I don’t need any help. I am very good at traveling around both indoors and outdoors. I am not afraid to go up and down the stairs and I can do this well. I like to know what is around me so please don’t hesitate to give me descriptions because I won’t necessarily see everything. I ask a lot of questions because I need to know.
I’m sending you this note because I love new friends and I want to do what I can to make being my friend easy.
Please don’t be afraid to approach me and if you are unsure about something you can ask my mom (Aubray), dad (James), or my teachers. They won’t be offended—they’ll appreciate that you’re asking!
Thanks for taking the time to read this :)
Lynas says she started getting worried this past year, when preschool birthday party invites started making the rounds and Phoebe was excluded numerous times, including one celebration for a child she considered her best friend.
“I was so upset by what seemed like a trend that I called our vision consultant crying asking if there was anything I could do to protect Phoebe from ever getting left out like this again. She’s such an amazing little girl, so I’m worried about her spirits being darkened once the harsh realities of the world set in,” says Lynas. “Our consultant let me know that it likely wasn’t personal, but perhaps the parents thought they were doing me a favour by not putting us in an uncomfortable situation.”
We think this letter will go a long way to make Phoebe feel included and to help people see her for the bright, curious and capable girl she is. If her first assignment for JK is endearing herself to every person who reads this letter, we’re going to go ahead and give Phoebe (and her mom) an A+.