Monday, October 11, 2010

Ellie's Gift

Ellie has been given a great gift this year. Part of her knows this, and part of her won't really know this until she is older. Most days I get to see this gift unwrapped - little by little. I get to see the paper peeled back and watch as more and more of it is exposed.

This gift has a name....
Has a face.....
Has a voice....
Has a story.

Ellie is in a combined grade 2 and 3 class. It's a relatively small class, with only 19 students. Immediately upon entering the classroom, you notice the gift...

She is small - much smaller than all of the other students. She has significant gross motor issues which result in an awkward gait and deliberate movement. She has a low voice that speaks in one or two word phrases and doesn't sound like any other 7 or 8 year old I know. She has interesting facial features which include a repaired cleft lip and palate and wide-set eyes that draw you in. She sits and watches and makes choices consistent with a 2 year old. She has an assistant with her constantly during the day that helps her with everything.

This is the gift. The gift has a name. Her name is Nikki.

Nikki was born with Kabuki Syndrome - a very rare genetic disorder that only appears in about 1 in 32,000 births. It affects heart function, cognitive ability, speech, gross and fine motor skills, appearance, and disposition. Interestingly, most children with Kabuki Syndrome have an exceptionally positive and happy disposition. Nikki is one of them. Joy oozes its way out of her body and spirit.

This is Nikki's second year at Confederation Park Elementary. She bounds up the steps to her classroom each morning and one step inside her classroom will tell you why. It's where she is loved, accepted, and valued. She has found community.

Inside the classroom doors Nikki is surrounded with affection. The 7 and 8 year olds in her community greet her with hugs and smiles. She is doted on and cared for. She is protected and guarded. Girls and boys alike playfully engage her consistently through the day. One boy regularly spends his recesses playing games of "hide and seek" with her outside just to see her smile. Groups of girls will dress her up at Centre Time like you would a toddler and she delights in it. Other students will read simple stories to her on the carpet because they want to. This is community.

I am so grateful Ellie has the chance to learn and grow beside Nikki. She is seeing differences honored and embraced. She is a witness to inclusion and adaptation. She is watching boys show affection and put the needs of someone else before themselves.

Most of all, she is a recipient of hugs and handshakes from pudgy hands and a warm heart belonging to a freckle-faced gift.

This gift has a name.

Her name is Nikki.


  1. That is so incredibly beautiful. I'm so glad to read that Nikki is treated with such kindness and respect in her school.

  2. What a beautiful story! Thank-you for sharing it , Karla.

  3. It continues to amaze me how accepting children can be - nice to see this happens in other places, too. BTW, I wish I could have a class size of "only" 19 ;-)

  4. what a beautiful beautiful gift for ellie and what a beautiful gift it is for YOU to watch your daughter blossom into an accepting and compassionate individual. every mom's dream :)

  5. Ah, sigh. Thank-you. For everything lovely written here.

  6. of course, Ellie will be perfect for this position, with her soft skin and sweetness oozing out of her. Give your wee Ellie a squeeze, and yourself one while you're at it. You are a huge reason why your children are so loving, inclusive, and kind.

  7. beautiful story Karla. Ellie is blessed to have such a gift in her life.