By Nigel Winter

My son Logan is a 15 year old teenager who for the past three and a half years, has been very fortunate to have two outstanding young friends Caleb and Daniel, and I would like to take the opportunity to share some great moments both of us have shared with these boys and the benefits to Logan.

The boys met when they all started James Hargest Junior Campus here in Invercargill. This was a huge step in the mainstream system for us and Logan as it was a big move from primary school to junior high. I recall it as a time of great apprehension and worry as to how he would cope and fit in. For his two years there we were grateful that the kids in his class remained the same and moved through with him. Generally the children were very good and accepted Logan for who he was and helped him where they could, particularly in his first year – but two young men really stood out, Caleb and Daniel.

Both boys were always around to encourage Logan and include him in activities and lunchtime events and were (and still are) very interested in how he is doing. They always treat Logan as an equal and see him for the person he is and never focus on any limitations he may have.

His second year at Junior Campus saw the gap widen between Logan and his peers and the hard decision was made near the end of the year to move him from mainstream to Ruru School which is a specialist facility in town. The last half of this year saw a problem or two with bullying and when this occurred Caleb was always on hand to help sort any issues Logan faced, sometimes having to face the consequences afterwards – on one occasion I went into school to back up his actions!. Times like these, while his parents and I thought his responses may not have been the right approach I was very thankful and proud to know this young man and appreciate how he was always there for my son when he needed it the most!

Daniel also has been the same and I still smile when I remember his mum sharing a tale with me of how they were up town one day and some boys were continually staring at Logan, Daniel promptly faced them and said “just take a picture why don’t you” to which the boys looked very embarrassed and quietly moved on. She too was as proud of him as I was.

Now that Logan has moved to another school and is thriving I still get the lads together regularly and we have had some awesome trips and days together and the friendship bond is strong between the boys and Logan, as well as myself. We have been to Wanaka and Queenstown for day and weekend trips, camping at our crib near Oamaru with hours spent combing beaches, kayaking and spotlight with torches, we’ve explored the Catlins region to experience some fantastic places and sights.

Recently, now that Logan has gone from his trike to a mountain bike we did a day trip on a section of Otago Rail Trail featuring viaducts and tunnels and even on this trip when Logan’s confidence on the bike had dipped – Daniel and Caleb were right there, encouraging him and including him and just being great mates!!

During these activities I have seen Logan’s confidence develop greatly as has his speech and social skills, and I know he really feels a part of what we are doing and just loves being involved.
Logan always smiles and talk’s about “Logan’s friends” and it is emotional at times seeing him being just like any other teenage boy. I hope the friendship developed will be lifelong and that others within our Down syndrome community get to experience what Logan and I have – our road travelled would be so much smoother if we all had more people like Caleb and Daniel within our lives!