Being different can make school a hard place. That’s what’s remarkable about what happened this weekend to one Rock Creek High School student with special needs.
Taylor Newman, a senior at Rock Creek High School, received the title of winter queen Friday night during the winter royalty ceremony at the school’s basketball game.
She wasn’t defined by having Down syndrome. Taylor was simply a student creating another high school memory during her final year.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a person having 47 chromosomes instead of the typical 46. The symptoms vary in severity, but they involve physical, mental and social development delays.
A night like Friday is something that Hal and Lois Newman, Taylor’s parents, worried she wouldn’t be able to experience. They said they were afraid that she would be excluded from the rest of the students’ activities.
“When you have a special needs child, you always worry if she’s being treated well,” Hal said. Instead, they marveled at the fact that students have included Taylor whether it’s basketball, bowling or other social activities.
Lois said she is overjoyed at the way students have taken a liking to Taylor. “It certainly takes away all the fears and worries you have with a special needs child,” she said. “They’ve given her a chance to be normal.”
Taylor was in school and unavailable to talk about the honor Monday. But Hal said he’s aware that starting a friendship with someone with developmental disabilities can be hard for people. “Sometimes in public situations, people can ignore special needs people partially because they don’t know how to communicate with them and they can be difficult to understand,” he said.
Taylor had to have friends and supporters to even receive a winter queen nomination. She was met at the game by teachers, students and friends, and sat with her classmates. Hal said she has a lot of best friends.
“She always has a smile on her face,” Lois said. “She brightens the room when she walks in. Everybody loves her.”
During halftime of the boys’ game, Taylor made her way to the court. “When we walked her out, one thing that impressed us was that everybody was cheering,” Hal said.
Hal said they let Taylor know that she might not win. “We told her there were four candidates and she might not get picked,” Hal said. “We told her to congratulate whoever won.”
When Taylor’s named was called out, it gave the people what they wanted. “They crowned her as queen and the whole place started roaring,” Hal said. “It was an emotional thing to watch.”
Hal said she was “just all smiles” and “ate it up” as friends hugged her and called her queen. Lois said they knew some of Taylor’s friends but didn’t know how many kids really liked her.
“Her friends would come up and say ‘We totally voted for her,’” she said.
Hal said Taylor gets nervous and it’s hard for her to voice her opinion in situations where there are a lot of people. On Friday, he didn’t need Taylor to tell him what he already knew.
“You could tell by her behavior that she was the happiest little girl in the world,” Hal said.