Life has sure changed a lot since I was a kid. Back in grade school in the 70s, I had my friends, my teachers, my fun in the sun. But what I didn't have was a fully rounded education. I don't remember ever seeing a child with a disability during elementary school. I barely remember seeing any at junior high or high school. That's because these kids were always kept separate. And it was to our detriment. No exposure meant no learning about them, no seeing they were like us, just different. I remember my friends and I openly staring at kids with disabilities. Adults told us don't, that's not nice. But how could we stop? They were so different. We'd never seen anyone like them before. Flash forward to when Ronan, my son, was born. Though his mother, Linda, and I didn't know it before hand, he had Down syndrome. We knew we were up to the tasks of raising him, but I had vision of how others might gawk at him, make fun of him, all just because they didn't understand him. My heart hurt just thinking about the possibility. But the reality has not lived down to my fears. Why? Because exposure has turned Ronan, and the other kids like him, into an ambassador. Ronan's special needs classes have always been integrated into schools with general populations. Non-special needs kids become helpers, learning that the disabled are kids, too. They then spread this knowledge to their friends. When Ronan graduated junior high he didn't walk up for his certificate at the front of the class where he should have been. He came at the end, the very end. Why? Because two of his friends, helpers from earlier in the year, made a special request: "We want Ronan to walk with us." Ronan, bracketed by his buddies, made his way up to the platform and graduated with them. Thinking about this still causes me to tear up. But it doesn't stop there. Linda sees kids come up to Ronan all the time to say hi. I've seen this, too. I think it's wonderful. If this kind of thing happened when I was a kid, I never saw it. Nowadays all kids with special needs are ambassadors, helping whole generations grow up without fear and misunderstanding. Is it perfect yet? No. But it's a foundation that's getting stronger every year. I'm so proud of our son. And I'm so proud of his friends for not caring what he has, but about who he is.