Allison and Cooper know the routine in Cindy Proffitt's room at the Eureka Early Childhood Center. The two usually move from their Early Childhood Special Education room to Proffitt's class around lunchtime every day, and classmates welcome them with open arms.
"This is a great group of kids, and I love this age because they don't see differences," Proffitt said. "They just see another peer to play with or include as part of their class. It's exciting to see that the kids just want them to be part of our group."
Cooper has Down syndrome, and Allison was born with DYRK1A-related intellectual disability syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes symptoms such as impaired speech development and autism spectrum disorder.
Their teachers know they are valued members of the classroom environment, and the rest of the students get it, too.
"Cooper is learning so much each day at school in an environment that is accepting, kind and inclusive," said Dr. Paige Carlson, Cooper's mother and content facilitator career and technical education 6-12 for Rockwood School District. "His friends don't view him as different because his teachers have beautifully created an environment where Cooper is valued and respected. The focus is always on his ability. Cooper does have a disability, but he also has a wealth of abilities! When teachers value abilities in all learners, it helps students to see the amazing qualities that all students can and do possess."
"I absolutely love Rockwood Early Childhood
program," said Nicole Clark, a kindergarten teacher at Geggie Elementary
whose daughter, Mia, is in Proffitt's class. "I really love that Mia can open her heart to all children in the class. Even though we may be different, we are all the same. I am proud to have my child in Rockwood's excellent program that teaches the kids to take care of friends, their school and the world."
On a recent Friday, the class played pet shop. Cooper shopped for supplies, took his plush stuffed animal dog to the doctor and for a session with the groomer. Allison helped out bagging items with the cashier.
Everyone had a role to play.
"It's our job as teachers to get to know every student and help them reach their fullest potential," Proffitt said. "My end goal for all my students is to help them become lifelong learners and create an environment in which they feel accepted and loved. Cooper and Allison are a huge part of our class. We are the fortunate ones to get to spend our days being a part of their lives."