Guest Post / Kindergarten / Parenting Blog

Guest Post: Not Just Another Back to School Story

OWTK’s first ever guest post comes from an old colleague of mine, Greg Citro.

He’s the father of an amazing little girl who has already beaten the odds more than the greatest of card sharks.  This is his and her back to school season story, one that bares telling.  Also included here, at the bottom, is a letter he is sending in with his daughter, to be distributed to her classmates families.  I’ve changed the names of the people and school involved.  Greg and I want to share this wonderful template of introduction, explanation, and emotion with you in case you might be facing a similar new hurdle in the life of your little one.  Feel free to download the letter and use all or some of it to suit your specific needs.

Now grab a tissue and read on.


On September 14, 2005, at around 8:30 at night, the surgeon told my wife and I that it had went well. ‘It’, of course, being the surgery on our hours-old daughter, Abby. Of all of the things he said to us, there is one that I’ll never forget. “On her first day of school, when they hear her cough, you’re going to get a call from the school nurse that she is deathly ill.” The surgery was to fix a defect in Abby’s esophagus and a common side effect is a bark-like cough from the scar tissue surrounding the surgical repair site. And perhaps “bark-like cough” is a bit of an understatement. It’s more like the bark-like cough of a 90-year old man. With emphysema. Who still smokes a pack or two a day.

It was really the “her first day of school” comment that stuck. The cough is little more than a reason to glare back at the nosy old woman in the restaurant that feigns disgust when she hears it. Thinking more than a day or two (sometimes an hour or two) into the future was simply overwhelming. Besides her esophagus needing to be surgically repaired, there was the infection that developed over the next few days that put her on life support and almost took her from us, as well as the transient leukemia diagnosis a week later. Oh, and then there was the small matter of her being born with Trisomy 21. You know, Down syndrome.

First day of school you say, doc? Uh-huh.

But here we are, my wife and I, no longer able to deny time’s arrow. After seeing Abby through years of Early Intervention, the Intermediate Unit, nursery school, myriad doctor’s appointments and hospitalizations, we are on the precipice of real, honest to goodness, full day kindergarten. We feel good about the school choice we made and the months of preparation we’ve had with the principal, teachers, and support staff. We are excited and so is Abby. When she and her classmates meet each other and their teacher for the first time this week, they will go home with a manilla envelope full of forms, reminders, to-do’s, and sign-up’s. They will also go home with a letter from two anxious parents who are about to send their little girl off to a big school.

Jeff has allowed me to share this letter with you, his devoted readers, on OWTK. Perhaps you or someone you know will find yourself in a similar position in the future and you could extract from some of what we wrote. Or maybe there is simply an opportunity to gain perspective on other parent’s lives away from the PTO meetings or soccer field. Hopefully though, we would love this to be a chance for you to have a conversation with your child as he or she starts school this year about inclusion and stereotypes. About diversity and how it is something to be embraced rather than feared. And about how are differences are the one thing that make us all the same.

Kindergarten Letter

*To find out more about Down syndrome please visit and to find a Buddy Walk near you, go to

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