In-school system empowers local Girl Scout with Down syndrome to sell cookies |

In-school system empowers local Girl Scout with Down syndrome to sell cookies

Fleming is second top seller in her troop

Kate Fleming looks on as her daughter, Lilly Fleming, middle, hands a box of Girl Scout Samoas cookies to her special education teacher, Susan Boone, at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School. Boone set up a program framework that helped Lilly, who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, to overcome her shyness and communication challenges to sell Girl Scout cookies.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Lilly Fleming is a student at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School and member of Girl Scout troop 850, and regardless of the social challenges that comes with being born with Down syndrome, she became the troop’s second top Girl Scout cookie seller this year.

Fleming sold 138 boxes of cookies at school through a system created by Susan Boone, her special-education teacher, through an individualized education program (IEP).

IEP is a program for students with special needs, and it’s geared toward their individual levels, according to Boone.

“When Lilly started selling Girl Scout cookies a couple of years ago she was really shy going up and talking with people,” she said.

So this year, one of Fleming’s IEP objectives was to work on her independence and talking to people, Boone said.

“Her whole Girl Scout adventure this year was project-based learning, because it encompassed so many things such as reading, writing, math and communication,” she said.

Fleming had to approach and speak with potential customers about buying cookies.

In the past, Fleming’s mother Kate tried to take her door-to-door, but that didn’t work out due to her shyness.

“She didn’t have much interest, and she’s hit and miss with Girl Scout booths,” Kate said. “She has fun with her friends, but she gets shy with strangers.”

Three years ago, Boone began setting up an in-school system that Fleming could use to sell cookies.

“I only helped to set up the framework for her to sell, and used the process as a learning opportunity,” Boone said. “It was Lilly that did all the work.”

The updated system worked well this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This gave her the opportunity to interact with people and come out of her shell,” Kate said. “With COVID I wasn’t comfortable with Lilly going door-to-door, and we weren’t doing cookie booths. So this was it.”

From left: Kate Fleming, her daughter Lilly Fleming and Lilly’s special education teacher Susan Boone stand by boxes of Girl Scout cookies at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School. Boone created a framework that helped Lilly, who has Down syndrome, become the second top cookie seller in her troupe.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Boone drew up a sign-up sheet and made it available for teachers to sign up for whatever times fit their schedules.

For two weeks, Fleming would visit four or five classrooms at the appropriate times each day to sell the cookies.

“Jeremy Ranch was just a great environment for Lilly to be comfortable in and Susan did all the coordination so she could do what her peers would normally do door-to-door,” Kate said.

Each day Boone provided Fleming with a schedule and a clipboard.

“We have a digital clock in our room, so we compared the times on her clipboard and the clock so she would know when it was time to go to the classrooms,” Boone said.

Fleming was familiar with some of the classrooms and would go to them on her own accord, and Boone would accompany her to the ones she didn’t know.

“We’ve been working on (getting her to walk) around the school independently without someone with her all day, so it was cool for her to walk through the school and stay on task,” Kate said.

Boone provided a cheat sheet for Fleming to use, in case she got nervous.

“She really didn’t need to read it, and by the end she was stopping people in the hallways to sell cookies,” Boone said. “So this was a real growing up experience for her.”

In addition to taking orders, Fleming also took a week to write thank-you notes to those who bought cookies.

“Lilly is doing well with her ability to type sentences, and once we get her going, she can type what she dictates,” Boone said. “So we had her write a thank-you letter for those who purchased cookies. And we had her deliver those letters.”

Fleming also had to deliver the cookies to her clients, and she finished that in a day and a half.

“Lilly couldn’t get the boxes out of my car fast enough,” Kate said. “She’s really small, and it was fun to see her holding these big boxes.”

Fleming ended up selling 223 boxes in total, with 135 sold at school, according to Kate.

“Lilly sold to 38 different teachers, and I couldn’t ever see her talking with 38 different people before this,” she said.

The other boxes were sold through a website, and to close family friends, according to Kate.

“She most likely sold the most s’mores because she upsold them in all her orders,” she said.

S’mores are Fleming’s favorite cookies, and she would recommend them to most of her buyers, Boone said.

Fleming also collected and helped count the money, which added to her experience, Boone said.

“She wouldn’t have been able to do that a couple of years ago, so this is something she’s working at to become a citizen of commerce,” she said.

All of these cookie-selling steps not only helped Fleming improve communication and writing skills, but also helped her develop confidence.

“She got a lot out of it, because she enjoyed it so much, and she seems to stand a little taller at the end of the day,” Kate said.

Kate’s plan is to introduce Boone’s system to the Girl Scouts of the USA and Girl Scouts of Utah.

“I hope the rest of the Girl Scouts can adapt their cookie programs for girls with different abilities,” she said. “The standard, door-to-door limits kids with communication differences, because there is so much opportunity for other kids to be part of the Girl Scouts.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of Girls Scouts of the USA.

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