I’ve been a childcare provider for 16 years in the Baltimore County area and had the pleasure of meeting and caring for many families, but the family that has impacted me as an educator will always be Luis Cotto and the Cotto Family. I had the pleasure of meeting the Cotto family in 2009 and found them very delightful. They had many questions as many parents do for having their first child. As we reviewed my services, I’ll never forget Mom asking me if I had a problem caring for a child that has Down Syndrome? I could tell in her eyes that she was scared of my response, but I love all children. I looked into Mom and Dad’s eyes and said, “No, I will love him like my own.” The look of relief was on their faces and the work began.
I had never cared for a child that had Down Syndrome before, but have always shared a love for learning new experiences and have always expressed my interest in Special Needs Early Childhood Education. I educated myself on Down Syndrome, so that I could appropriately ask the family questions or share any of my concerns. His parents were great advocates for their child and it was wonderful learning from them and sharing in the joy of helping Luis with his growth and development. They kept me educated on the Down Syndrome community so that I could continue to grow and learn about IDEA and the struggles that children with Down Syndrome face in an inclusion setting and test scores.
Luis was considered very high functioning so we worked on skills to help with speech development, large gross motor skills, fine motor skills and movement. His mother always provided me with great resources and many activities to further help Luis grow. I worked very closely with the Maryland Infant and Toddlers Program and had them come into my childcare to perform services with Luis. I never excluded Luis to another room while he was receiving services. I thought it would be great for all the children to share in his developmental endeavors. I wanted the children to learn, although we all may look different or need some help, we all have the ability to perform the same way.
His parents’ culture was inspiring as his father played the Latino beats of the xylophone from his roots of Puerto Rico and his mother who shared her Chinese culture with all the kids in care to learn about Chinese New Year’s! These parents were my most involved with the learning of all the kids. My children always loved learning and listening to the Cotto Family and have taken my girls on some adventures of the Latino sound.
I took care of Luis and his family for four years and always remember and utilize the skills that I’ve learned from this magnificent family in my educational endeavors. The Cotto Family inspired me to further my education to receive my Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education and I am currently working on my Bachelor’s Degree with an emphasis on Special Education. It is important to treat everyone with dignity, respect, and advance their abilities to do great and wonderful things from years to come. I have truly enjoyed this family and still stay in touch with them often. They are truly my favorite and will be a part of me forever.
About the Author: Nikya Green, raised in Catonsville, Maryland, has an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Baltimore County Community College of Catonsville, and is working toward a B.S. in Early Childhood Education with a specialization in Special Education. She lives in Catonsville with her husband of 17 years, Rodney Green, and her two children, Kaela (16) and Savannah (13). She strives to give back to her community by participating in Project Homeless Connect yearly and offers her services as a childcare provider for families in need for the day. Nikya Green enjoys helping others and watching them succeed to become leaders within the community.