Julius, billy goats and a little inclusive story

By Catia Malaquias

Today, my 7 year-old son Julius made his school-wide debut.  You may know Julius, who has Down syndrome, as a model for children’s fashion brand eeni meeni miini moh and our first Ad Inclusion Ambassador.

AW16 Eeni_1426-boyIt’s fair to say that Julius is no stranger to the limelight but today was a completely new experience and one that I doubt I will ever forget.  It was the turn of Julius’ year 1 class to put on the weekly assembly show – a rendition of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”- and the first time that Julius would be part of a performance in front of his whole local regular public primary school community, the student body, all the staff and many of the parents.  It was a big deal – for him and for us.

Julius was allocated a speaking part. Our instruction yesterday was for Julius to practice saying “our show”, rather than his preference “MY show”.  We practised … including letting go of the microphone after Julius had said his bit.

That Julius, who like many children with Down syndrome has some difficulty with speech, was still given a speaking part meant a lot. But that wasn’t the good bit.  Julius, dressed like most – as a sheep-like goat – was seated amongst his class.  There was no teaching assistant seated beside him, nor was he in the corner of the stage within arm’s reach of a controlling adult.  For an energetic boy with a short concentration span, even we were pleasantly surprised at the courage of Julius’ teacher.

And true to form. The spectacle was too alluring. Julius, the untethered goat wandered uninvited into the discourse on the bridge – the third shooter on the grassy knoll?  He returned to his seat, but wandered again … this time over to the Year 6 presenters of the weekly merit certificates … alas there was no merit award for him. And with some coaxing Julius returned to his seat empty-hoofed … no doubt disappointed … his hopes enhanced by the fact his big sister Laura received a merit certificate at last week’s assembly – which certificate Julius had run around the school quadrangle for all and anyone to see.

But after seven or eight premature advances to the microphone his teacher finally gave Julius the green light.  And with all the concentration Julius could muster, he said in absolute silence:

“Errrrrr …. THANK YOU ….. COMING  …. TO OUR SHOW”


The biggest and loudest round of applause and cheering followed – and it came from all his fellow students.  And we had a few tears in our eyes. For a cheeky one, everyone saw how hard Julius was trying to get his words out – like all his class peers had done – like all the other students had done at their assemblies over the years.  They shared a common experience with Julius – a few seconds, a few powerful seconds of real connection and understanding.

There was nothing extraordinary.  Nothing inspirational. But something more … there was something legitimate, something common and something that should be ordinary.

So this little blog is my way of saying to Julius’ teacher, her assistants and our school (who know who they are) thank you for giving Julius the chance to participate as an equal. That is both a gift to him and his entitlement.

Thank you for holding Julius to the same expectations as his peers.  It is why we believe in a regular schooling environment.

Thank you for taking a big risk to let Julius show what he is capable of … warts and all.

And so I left Julius encircled by his proud big sister and her Year 3 friends – reliving his moment of shared glory, knowing some may have thought the show could have gone “smoother”, but knowing what we all saw was better.

*Catia Malaquias is a mother of three young children, a lawyer and the Founder of Starting With Julius.  You can connect with Catia on Twitter @CatiaMalaquias or on Facebook

[Cover photo © Starting With Julius]

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