"Ellie thinks [your daughter's] really great, and so do I. Even at this young age some kids realize that Ellie's a little different and are obviously uncomfortable around her. It sounds like your daughter's been really nice to Ellie at school and she must be picking up that inclusive attitude from somewhere. So thank you! (Ellie has Down syndrome, of course, but what that means varies from kid to kid. In Ellie's case, she struggles a little physically - she's weaker than other kids - and behaviorally. Things are harder for her so she sometimes opts out of participating. But she's bright, so she gets it when she's excluded, and that's hard.)"
She replied, "I'm glad to hear that Ellie feels included by [my daughter]. We have talked about Ellie (not in a mean way, of course) and [my daughter] explained to me that Ellie's brain just works differently than ours does, so that is what we say. I hope that is ok. I don't pretend to know all of the correct ways of explaining things to my daughter, but I try to point out how people are similar to each other even though they are also different. Anyway, I'm just glad Ellie thinks my daughter is nice."
I love that this 5-year-old confidently explained to her mother that Ellie's brain just works a little differently. That's true!
Here's my latest metaphor. Have you ever been really really tired? Maybe you're trying to study or balance your checkbook or just finish reading the doggone book for your book club. Whatever the specifics - have you ever been in a state where you can just TELL that you're not quite firing on all cylinders? That your brain isn't making connections well, that your processing time is delayed, that your body is clumsy and not reacting the way it should? You know that something's wrong but you can't do anything about it?
You could be tired or sick or drunk or drugged or aging or injured or disabled or recently returned to Earth after acclimating to moon gravity. You're probably also very frustrated! You're still YOU in there, but you've got this barrier to interacting with to the outside world.
I think life is like that for Ellie, all the time.
She's the toughest person I know. And, especially considering how hard functioning with all the rest of us must be for her, she's also the brightest, sweetest, most giving person around.