2013 Puget Sound Buddy Walk

All I think I need to do is play the video…  We are so proud of her.  We gave her a questionnaire to fill out to help her focus her speech.  She answered the questions, then we put it into Keynote as a prompt for the performance!  She practiced at school, even with the speech path…  Here is it is:

Here is the text from her speech too:

Hey guys thanks for supporting the buddy walk cause, this means a lot to me
I know that this is a big deal for me.  I have never done this before.  This is my first time speaking in public.

Hi I’m Devon,
I am a 17 year old junior at Nathan Hale High School.
I am a cheerleader a skier and I have Down syndrome

The most important thing in my life is not giving up, it is also the hardest thing.

I love being a high school student because I love learning.
My favorite things to learn this year are Ecology and writing for the year book.

I love math as well, but sometimes its the hardest one for me to do.

Part of why I love the yearbook is that I love writing
I feel like writing is in my blood.
I can express my feelings and myself more clearly through writing.

Every day after school I write in my journal and it makes me feel special and confident.

My mom made me write about myself for our website, then my language arts teacher made me read and write poems. 
Writing poetry helped me find my passion.

When I’m done with college I want to write for a living.
Books or stories, poems or plays, I don’t know yet.

When I’m not writing I love cheerleading with my friends and playing piano
    Cheering with my friends makes me feel like I belong at Nathan Hale High     School and being accepted for who I am.
    My love for piano started with my great grandmother.  She’s the reason why I     wanted to play piano.  When I play piano it makes me feel like she is right beside     me playing playing piano next to me.

People don’t always understand when I speak, but they understand when I play piano or write.

Love yourself, be yourself, follow your passion.
No one can stop you from dreaming, no one can stop you from growing.

We are like sunflowers basking in the light and constantly growing.
The more we dream the more we grow and touch other lives.
We can touch millions if we try.
There are opportunities in front of you, you just have to believe to make it true.

She is amazing!

Thanks for watching!




Sean and I are blessed to have 3 wonderful kids.  Parenting is the hardest job ever.  Most of us when we think about having kids we only think of the baby.  We do not think about “tweens” frustrations or adolescence rebellion.

Our oldest will be off to college this fall and our youngest moved out of elementary and will start middle school in the fall as well.  Dev our middle will stay in high school, starting her junior year…  So we’ve been parents for a little while and yet have a long way to go.

Open Heart, Open Mind

Growing up…

So when Dev gave me this poem/note last night it helps to keep your strength up.

Never Gonna Stop Me Now
by Devon Adelman

When I was little I always wanted
To be a zookeeper.
But as I grew older I wanted
To be a writer so I can express
My feelings and to show them the real me.

I always had my parents by my side
they taught me To stand on my own
to believe
I love my parents with all of my heart
Because they have been there for me
Whenever I feel sad they always cheer me up
When I have problems they help me
Also when I feel afraid of something they taught me how to be brave
Everyday I feel like I belong in this world
I’m not alone but it’s a long road ahead
My parents were always there for me
Now I’m an 11th grader
It makes my mother and father have tears to see me grow into a beautiful woman that dreams big
I am special for who I am ,
I am  famous for who I am
This is something new that I dream about
My whole life is to write stories and poems because that’s what I love doing

I had a song for my parents that I wanted to sing for them it’s called ” you raise me up ” by Westlife.  It means so much to me, because you raised me up with a big heart, that shows that you cared about me.  Without you beside me I wouldn’t be here that’s how much I love my parents with a big heart .

Parenting is the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done.  Being Dev’s mom has so many rewards, being reminded of them is wonderful!


Unified Sports…

Sports are a fun way to stay physically fit, learn rules, make friends, create community.

When you sign any child up for preschool dance/soccer/swim lessons you get great pictures, new friends, a few minuets of free space…  This is true of all parents.

Soccer as a pre-schooler means running around in a pack after a ball :-)

Soccer as a pre-schooler means running around in a pack after a ball 🙂

Dev on the bar, looking beautiful!  3rd in line

Dev on the bar, looking beautiful! 3rd in line








We have been strong supporters of inclusive sports.  Maybe because we did not know there was anything else, maybe because it was easier to have both kids in the same activity, maybe because Dev could “keep up”.  What ever the reason it has been wonderful.  The obvious benefits being:

1) Friends, for Dev and for us

2) Exercise, always welcome

3) Social Rules, taking turns…

4) Fun

Now that Dev is older… dreaded teenage years…  We are finding even more benefits.  Just like with academics as kids get older their abilities get more clear.  Soccer, basketball, tennis…  all get more competitive, and lots of kids get left out or left on the bench.  In our middle schools we have had access to “no-cut” teams, these are great and should be the way sports work in public schools.   Everyone benefits from the team sport concept.  In high school this is harder, but track and swimming are still “no-cut” teams.  This year we were also introduced to Unified Soccer, a division of Special Olympics.

Our high school has enough kids/interest for 3 teams!  The teams are made up of 3 kids with a disability (athletes) and 2 kids with out a disability (partners) and subs for each.  At Hale (Dev’s high school), 2 teams are considered “competitive” and one is “recreational”  so kids of all abilities are able to play.  Only the athletes score and goal keep, so it enforces team play, passing, and communication.

I think the benefits of team sports are well known.  What I love hearing are the stories from the coaches and players of the teams that are surprised about how much they learn from the athletes.  Soccer players on the unified teams have mentioned how similar the athletes are rather than how different.  That all the players want to win, get frustrated, are proud, enjoy working together…  It is an amazing experience to “see” the kids figure out that how you treat others really makes all the difference.  That the “special ed” kid actually has all the same emotions they have….  that they are people…

Unified Sports 2013

Unified Sports 2013

We have our end of season party tonight.  We get to celebrate all of the kids, teams, coaches and parents.  Dev’s team qualified for the State games and won their division!  What a great experience for all!



iPad Winner for “Sam’s Top Secret Journal” Contest

“Sam’s Top Secret Journal–book 1–We Spy” is a fun, middle reader, chapter mystery that happens to have a main character with Down Syndrome.

Get yours today!

Get yours today!

The reason for the book is multi-facited.

1.  Inspire,   trying to inspire families touched by DS by showing what can be possible

2.  Inclusion,  showing class mates, siblings, teachers what can be possible

3.  Fun, a fun story just for the stories sake

We wanted more families to find “Sam’s Top Secret Journal” so we ran a contest to Win an iPad.  Dev loves her iPad and there are soo many Apps for education, communication, fun we thought it was a great fit!

Dev Drawing the winner

Dev Drawing the winner

The contest involved answering a simple question from the book and sending us contact information.  From all of the entries Dev got to draw a winner!  Drum roll please…..  Valerie and Josh were the lucky winners!

Josh loves the iPad!

Josh loves the iPad!

Thanks to all that entered!  Please share the “Sam’s Top Secret Journal–book 1– We Spy”.  Book 2 “The Lost Puppy” is scheduled to be out this summer!



Wow it is hard to believe, we will be in Vietnam in less than a week.

We will be having some fun, teaching some medical stuff and some conversational English.  We will also be leading by example when it comes to INCLUSION and ACCEPTANCE.

The new story about the teen with DS that made the climb to Mt. Everest base camp stated that 90% of the worlds cultures do not include/accept people with disabilities.  While in Vietnam we will be talking with educators and families about the value of all individuals and the fact that your expectations can make a tremendous difference in the abilities of a person.   Be watching, we will be posting about our experiences!



A Mom’s Oversight, True Inclusion???

So, I’m working on another post that has been swimming in my head, but just has not fully formed yet about the Nature vs. Nurture aspect of parenting. Then last night happened… I was not prepared, so I do not have any great pictures, but I will have the memories.

Just one of the crowd

Just one of the crowd

As so many of us know, days get busy and plans do not always work out. Dev is a busy kid, her older sister and younger brother are busy too. Last week Dev had 4 playoff basketball games that we had to work in to the schedule last minute, requiring canceling of piano lessons, numerous family dinners, homework help, blah blah blah. So when Monday evening rolled around and we got word that Dev was expected to be at school for another Cheer leading thing on Tuesday night 5:30-7:30 we were a little frustrated.

The cheer leaders were expected to be school ambassadors for the “Prospective Students Evening”. A little added pressure was given to the girls that are planning on trying out again for the squad next year as it would “show their dedication”… They have been asked to help out at school for all kinds of things where they usually stand around looking cute, handing out fliers show people around the school. OK, we will do it, Dev loves the squad.. Since we missed last weeks piano lessons I reworked the schedule so that Dev would go to piano early, her sister would take her to school so she could be there from 6-7:30. I thought a good effort!

So all goes as things go (left overs for dinner).. I head out to pick her up getting to school around 7:25 as she is supposed to be done at 7:30. I text Dev that I’m parked in the usual spot and she responds “k” (how cool that she totally uses the phone well). So I wait… and think about all the times the squad has had to be at school and hold doors, set up chairs, hand out flyers… And wait… I think how great it is that Dev is part of the squad… I call, text… Wait… 20 min later I call again… I get frustrated… 8:00 still No response… It’s time to go in…

The school is deserted, the janitors are finishing up… I start to worry a little, but keep going. I find a few people near the auditorium, so I wonder that way. I open the door to the auditorium and find it packed with parents and potential new students for next year. And who do I see right in the middle of the stage with about 20 other kids taking questions from the crowd… (If only I had been a good mom and turned on the camera…)
Parent from the crowd, “What do you like best about Hale?”
Student to the left of Dev “the Japanese program”
Dev, “the teachers, they really know how to make learning fun”
Student to the right of Dev, “the Drama program”

No fan fair, no mention that Dev has Down Syndrome, no “wow, you did great”, no trying to slipping the microphone past… She’s just a regular kid to all the kids on the stage. Wow…

There was no preparation– for her or for me…  No, “Hi Sue, we would love if Dev could be on stage to show that we are an inclusive school”, no script for her to remember… It was REAL…



“Pushing Myself”

Dev just started a ski team here in Seattle called “SkiHawks”.   We have skied for awhile.  First just Sean and I, then on vacations.  Now here in Seattle we can ski almost every weekend!  It has been a lot of fun for most of the family….  Dev has always been our “reluctant” skier.  She would go, and be in a class in the morning then ski with me in the afternoon, but she has never been a “big fan”

Dev and

We knew about the “SkiHawks” through a friend that works with Sean.  We were hesitant because the team races…  Dev has amazing control on skis, but she has never cared for speed, be in skis, on a bike, on a boat, in general.  So we did not think it would be a great fit, but the work mate encouraged us.  We gave in with the thought if she did not like it we would let her out of it…

As with so many things, Dev surprised us.  She LOVED her coach (an amazing person and skier). After her first lesson she was looking forward to the next weekend with a fever!  She would mention skiing at dinner, on the way home from school, just counting down the days.  The next week (just last weekend) the race course was set up.  She has never been near gates let alone want to go down them.  But…  when we met up at lunch, she said “I did the race course twice!”

We asked her coach how it went and she said there was an invitational coming up and if Dev wanted to be in it they could try the course again, but she might have to push herself a little to go faster…  We told Dev it was up to her and her coach and we would support what ever she chose.  They headed out for the afternoon part of the lesson.

We met her coach at the end of the day.  She was impressed with the change in Dev, but did not get the chance to say more before Dev interjected, “I went FAST!!”,  “I’m going to race next week”.  We were excited for her and glad she was having such a great time with her coach, but did not give it too much more thought.

Then, Dev and I were in the car heading to gymnastics practice.  She had clearly been thinking about things.  She said “you know mom, I had a great time skiing with Galynn.  I think I’m going to push my self in gymnastics today, just like when I was skiing…”  She thought again for a while then added “and in Cheer practice“.  I thought this was great and remarked that when you push your self it may be difficult, but it is a way to get better at what your working on.  Again she thought for a second or to then added “I’m going to push myself in long division too”

I love this kid.  She is determined, persistent, and usually happy about it.

Here is the video of her first Race with the SkiHawks program.  She did 3 runs and improved her time on each one!  Sean was snowboarding while filming too!


Thanks for watch, I’ll let you know about the improvements in long division too 🙂



Thanksgiving here was not our typical holiday. We still spent a lot of time enjoying food, thinking of family and friends and watching football, but Sean and Dev also had a new experience: Being on TV!

Why?  Mainly to keep working on getting the message out there that the world will be a better place the more inclusive it is.

Inclusive: not excluding any particular groups of people in a society.

It seems that our society is becoming more inclusive and exclusive at the same time. We have an African American President, a Female Secretary of State, openly gay members of Congress, and a person with an Intellectual Disability on the ADA panel. Yet, the closed-mindedness of the political season was astounding. The division of past and future, good and evil and black and white seems to be razor sharp.

Raise Expectations started out as a way for Sean and I to look outward and share our experiences of “Special Education”. In the process we have come to realize that it is not just about the inclusion of kids with DS, ID or DDD (what ever DX), but it is more about celebrating differences. We do believe inclusive education is key in teaching appreciation and empathy to all.

The earlier we are exposed to different genders, races, religions, cultures, abilities (physical and intellectual) and ideologies the less scary they are; the sooner we can learn the value that each difference brings to this world. I hope we, as a society, can learn to be more open minded, accepting and inclusive.

I’m going to choose to be Thankful and Hopeful, to live in the Positive.  My new favorite quote is from Einstein: ” Learn from yesterday, Live for today, Hope for tomorrow”.  Dev seems to do this everyday, she is, as Sean said “an ambassador of possibilities”.

Dev and Sean (and a few more cheer leaders 🙂 will be on KING 5 New Day Northwest on December 5th at 11am! Please take a look!