21 Stories for WDSD- Grace

We are the proud parents of a loving, compassionate, friendly, social and funny 14 year old girl.  When Grace was born we did not know she would have Down syndrome.  We are lucky to have the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware be a part of our lives!  We have enjoyed attending family social events, parent education meetings, the Run for the Buds and the Buddy Walk.  We feel fortunate to have met such great advocates through the organization.  Talking with families who have traveled this road before us have been a great resource, so we thank you all!

Grace is currently a freshman in high school.  Her first year of high school is going well.  The journey through the education system has not always been easy though.  It is never easy to hear what your child is not capable of doing or that they are below grade level in core subjects.  The compliments we have received about Grace have always outweighed the negative which is fantastic!  Only this morning Grace and I met  with her guidance counselor to discuss what courses she would like to take next year.  I love that they asked her what her interests are and then explained what courses they thought she would enjoy.  Our goal for her high school years is for her to have the fullest high school career possible.  Since Grace loves sports we have made it possible that she has been a part of the high school volleyball team and the basketball team – which she played in 2 games and scored points!  She will participate in soccer in the spring too!

Grace is very active outside of school too.  She has been taking piano lessons for 8 years and loves music!  Her favorite band is One Direction.  She is a Girl Scout Senior and just earned her Cadette Silver Award which is the highest award for a Cadette to earn!  She also has been taking horse back riding lessons for 11 years.  She is a Speical Olympic Athlete where she participates in bowling, soccer, basketball and swimming.

It has always been important to us to have Grace involved in many activities.  Our hope is for her to have a positive impact on those she meets.  To show everyone that she is more alike than different.  A few weeks ago the high school had 1/2 days and I had to work.  So I had Grace come to the elementary school where I work.  The weather happened to be too cold for outside recess so we stayed in and when I went into the classroom with Grace all of the students came over and introduced themselves to her and immediately asked her to join them in their activities!  It warmed my heart to know that the youth of today do not pass judgement and are accepting and caring.

Grace has hopes and dreams just like everyone else.  In 7th grade she started to attend her IEP meetings.  Prior to the meeting she sat with the ED and went over a career guide and she had to answer questions about her future.  Her answer was and still is that she would like to work with horses or babies. She wants to go to college and to live independently.  She now has to work on life skills to get her dreams to come true (which is much easier said than done but we are working on it.)  One of her goals is to also marry one of the boys from One Direction or Like Evans!

So now we plan for her future.  Reminding her that having dreams is wonderful but that not all dreams can come true is the difficult part.  We hope that as many of her dreams come true as possible and we will do what we can to make that happen!


Bio:  Lisa Wisnewski is married to Joe and has one child, Grace.  She is  a part time paraprofessional in the Appoquinimink School District. Lisa is a past member of the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware Board of Directors where she served as secretary for 8 years, she has been an active member of the Buddy Walk Committee for 14 years and helps the DSA with volunteers for all of our events.

21 Stories for WDSD- Listening to Laura

Listening to Laura

When life doesn’t go as planned, which happens to all of us, we have choices.  Some of us try to cling on to our hopes that somehow we can make it go as planned, OR we can let go of our expectations and be open to, and learn to, love the life that is waiting for us.

The loss of a dream (or plan) is very significant and letting go is hard.  It does not happen easily or quickly.  In fact, I have been learning to let go and enjoy the very special, lovely things about my daughter, Laura, for 33 years.

One significant event comes to mind when I think about choices and letting go.  Thirty years ago, there was not an opportunity for Laura to attend her “home” school.  At age 3, she was bussed to another typical elementary school where she was placed in a self-contained classroom.  Inclusion was just beginning to come to the forefront.  I was ok with that … for a while.  But by the time she was in second grade, I began to think that there could be significant value in having her in class with her typical peers.  So, I made a choice and asked to have Laura placed in the regular class even though the academic gap between her and her peers was growing.  I was going to MAKE her life more like the one I had envisioned, I thought.  Since this was not the norm, at the time, the school agreed to allow Laura to go to specials (art, music, PE), and be in homeroom and go to lunch with her peers.  I was ok with that too.  It was a start.  Those were parts of her day that she really enjoyed.

But what happened next took me by surprise.  The music teacher attended one of our IEP meetings and told us that Laura was coming to music class twice a week, once with her 2nd grade class and once with her self-contained class.  He said that when she came with her peers, she sat in the back away from the other children, sucked her thumb, and did not participate.  He observed that when she came with her self-contained class, she sang and danced and played instruments and absolutely loved music.  He said that he would have never known her potential had it not been for seeing her in both environments.  Wow!  Laura was telling us in her own way that she was not comfortable with the choice I had made for her.  I had to let go and realize that, maybe this time, she knew what was right for her.

So I have learned to listen to Laura!  I learned to let go of my expectations and dreams and trusted that she was leading me down her path to a lovely life.  There have been plenty of times she has enjoyed school, work, or activities with her peers but she often prefers to interact with a group of friends with similar abilities and interests.  One day, when we were driving to an activity, she said “Mom, I love my life!”   What more could I ask for!  She shows me over and over again that her choices make her happy!

About the Author: Susan and her husband, Brian, live in Middletown with their oldest daughter, Laura.  They are also the parents of daughter, Tracy (married to Chad), and son, Chris.   Susan currently works as an Associate Teacher at St. Anne’s Episcopal School and Brian is a research engineer with the U.S. Army.   Susan has been organizing the teen/adult dances for DSA of DE for over 10 years and serves on the Outreach and Social Committees.  She also volunteers with Special Olympics DE as a registration manager for the MOT Area.

21 Stories for WDSD- Twins

I often tell my kids that they are the best Henry, Charlotte, Violet I could have ever hoped for or dreamed of.  And we did, we dreamed of and hoped for each of our kids and with so many odds that were against us, each of them is a miracle.  Henry and Charlotte are the kids that made us parents, we weren’t sure that day would ever come and after years of wanting and trying everything, we finally got the news that our ivf had worked.  I remember picking up the phone message, pulling into the parking lot of the little church near us, and calling back to make them tell me again in person cause I didn’t believe it.  I remember the tears of joy.

Now when you are having twins and they offer you that first trimester screening, your results are even more hazy than a singleton.  Nuchal fold and blood work showed that we had a 1:4 chance of one or both of them having Down syndrome, maybe.., if things weren’t too skewed.., which you couldn’t be sure of with twins…  So we held hands, drove away, shed another tear or two, said it wouldn’t matter to us if one of them did have Down syndrome so we decided to skip any further testing, and picked out names.  The pregnancy was amazing and blissful as I happily ate for three!  Even before they were born, my twins were a team as I would have to drink orange juice to get my kick counts in; Henry always came through right away and then I would wait for Charlotte to move when Henry would nudge or kick her!  I’m still waiting for the nudging and kicking each other to stop!

At their birth, it was pretty clear when she was born that our little Sweets very likely had Down syndrome with Al coming over as she was being checked and wrapped up to say that it seemed a likely diagnosis.  After we got a brief cuddle with her, she was off to the NICU and the next day we had a visit from Dr. B.  He came in to talk about their suspected diagnosis and gave us the news and information in a wonderful, positive light.  He also said that he was sure we were a little busy at the moment (our twins were born on May 13) but there happened to be this great little event called the Buddy walk that weekend and if we weren’t going to make it this year, definitely go out for it then next year!  So after that there were a few sad, confused tears and hushed conversations in the middle of the night when the fear really can get a hold of you but those were truly brief.  They were acknowledged to ourselves and to each other and we thankfully were able to let them go only to have the overflowing joy fill in where those few cracks had been.  These were the kids we had dreamed about about, this was the daughter we had wanted and now cherished, and yet she was so much more than I could have ever even imagined.

It was challenging at first but I often remind people who marvel at twins, that they were our first – we blissfully didn’t know any different!  Henry came home with us and Charlotte stayed for a month in the NICU and she went in a few months later for open heart surgery at AI.  Throughout it all, the tiredness, the new parent learning curve, the Down syndrome learning curve, we had these kids and they had each other.  They shared a crib, they explored their world, they learned to sit, roll over, crawl, and walk together, and throughout it all, Charlotte had Henry leading the way.  It comes up that parents worry about their child falling behind or not keeping up with their peers and here we were with a direct comparison of what a kid the same age as Charlotte can do, day in and day out.  But that was a push for Charlotte!  There wasn’t a thing Henry did that she didn’t want to do to: See Henry pull up on the couch? She wanted to do that too!  Run outside in the grass?  Hold my hand and let’s get running mom!  Over the past 7 years, they have attended different schools and gone to the same school, been in the same grades, and are now a year apart academically and still that push is there, Henry is reading?  I’m going to grab my book and let’s practice!

And as amazing as they are together, their differences are so cool too.  Henry is more cautious, while Charlotte can be a daredevil – I don’t think she has seen a step or ledge she doesn’t want to jump off.  Henry will talk a mile a minute while Charlotte may say a million words with her eyes before she opens her mouth.  Henry wants to do thing perfectly while Charlotte is a more intuitive soul.  And yet for all their differences, they are a dynamic little duo and all the better for having each other.

Very briefly before I finish, I have to mention Violet.  As amazing as the twins are and as great a little team, having Violet made everything so much more.  Charlotte has such a great connection with her and loves being a big sister and shares interests with her that she doesn’t with Henry.  Where Henry may take on more of a role in looking out for Charlotte, she now gets to take on that role with Violet and the pride and love she can pass on is beautiful to see.

I tell my kids they are more than I could have ever hoped for and I mean it with everything I have in me and that I have to give to them.  Before any of our kids were born, you wonder and try to picture them, imagine how time spent with them will be, what kinds of things will interest them and what conversations will you have?  Maybe I didn’t picture Down syndrome, but I did picture my Charlotte and Wow, is she better than anything I ever dreamed up.  Her smile is brighter than the sun, her hugs so joyous, her voice so endearing, her jokes so corny, her strength so impressive, and her eyes are just like mine.  I look at her and my heart swells; she is the the very best and I am so glad she is mine.


About the Author: Katie Orr is mom to her kids, twins Henry and Charlotte (7) and Violet (3). She is a Delaware native and works at Winterthur Museum where she and her family live. She can often be found running her kids around, dreaming of their next family trip, spending too much time on pinterest, jogging, reading a book, or visiting a museum.

21 Stories for WDSD- Defeating the Odds

Defeating the Odds

Just like any new parent with a baby the first year has its ups and downs. Full of nervous gitters, trying to make sure everything is perfect. Well for a parent of a child with Down syndrome, I have learned to let go.

Our journey of raising a child with Down syndrome began at 19 weeks gestation. My doctor had requested I take a panoramic blood screening which would identify the sex of the baby as well as any genetic concerns. Since our family had 2 other pregnancies with no complications I obliged without hesitation. Until less than a week after taking the test the office called letting me know the results were in and that I would be contacted by a genetics counselor… “Genetics Counselor!” The nurse had said many more words detailing my results but all I heard repeatedly was “Genetics Counselor!” I began to panic and searching google about all the possibilities genetic counseling could mean.

I then proceeded to make the call to schedule the counseling session. I remember the counselor asking several family history questions such were there any history of illness etc. Nothing had been found on my maternal/paternal side or my husband’s maternal/paternal side to our knowledge. With tear filled eyes I continued with the session. My husband was on the line since he was on the road for work. We both didn’t understand what was going on. Then the results were read, we were having a son and he showed 99.9% chance of having Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). The counselor provided us with resources and assured us that we were not alone. I surely felt alone in that moment wondering how life would be with a special needs child and what people would think. I felt guilty of course blaming myself since we didn’t know we were pregnant until 11 weeks.

I reached out to friends and family but most of all I leaned on my faith. Praying hard with my prayer warriors and church family to lead me and guide me along the way. Until we were sent to have our ultrasound to confirm his diagnosis. I had researched key factors in a child with Down syndrome while in utero such as absent nasal bone, extra fluid behind the neck, and sometimes shorter extremities. I was prepared to look at the ultrasound searching for anything.  My God-Mom and good friend whom I call my Soul Sister, accompanied me in the ultrasound. Our sonographer, Amanda began our ultrasound as my soul sister held my hand. The sonographer answered my questions as I knew what to look for but as the ultrasound went on she did at times become quiet. We ended our session before the doctor’s review with a prayer. I had never been so moved by a complete stranger’s prayers.

My God-mom and I walked into the doctor’s office to hear the results of the ultrasound which showed that our son would also be born with a heart defect. I didn’t know if I could handle anymore news. Heart defect and the possibilities of a still born child. At that moment I checked out of the room, quickly wrapped my arms around my belly and prayed and prayed. The doctor had to ask the dreaded question… “Before we continue, would you like to continue or terminate this pregnancy?” Without a second thought I uttered the words, “We were chosen for this baby, I am keeping him.” The doctor then informed me that all of my future appointments would need to be transferred to Nemours and that I would need to go to a high risk doctor at Christiana Care.

I was ready to take on the journey. Down syndrome is a journey that I never would have imagined but I am thankful for my pilot. I never thought I’d be so comfortable allowing complete strangers into my home for the therapy sessions; PT, OT, ST and ECE. The strangers later became family as we all watched and witnessed Isaiah learn a new task even after surgery to repair his heart defect. As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, he has taught me to enjoy the moment as it comes. Thinking that you don’t measure up to what everyone else is doing leaves you feeling incomplete and incapable. I learned that being different is what makes the world a better place and not focus so much on the milestones of society but on the individual goals we make ourselves. Isaiah is defeating the odds that were against him to even make it out of my womb and we are now approaching the first year. What a celebration it will be!! We’ve come this far by faith!

About the Author: Latoya, lives in Kent County with her husband, Jean, and their 3 children Jayla 9, Jordyn 5, and Isaiah soon to be 1 in March.  She’s currently at SAHM with an accounting background. She’s an only child and a selfless friend. She’s an advocate for CHD Awareness volunteering as the Welcome Coordinator for Mended Little Hearts of Delaware. Latoya will be providing peer to peer support for families with a child dealing with Congenital heart disease or defects.

21 Stories for WDSD- Stuart

I learned that I was expecting our second child in 2008.  Although I was ecstatic to learn the news, my experiences after that left me with mixed emotions. During one of my early prenatal visits, the doctor could not hear a heartbeat.  Although he tried to reassure me by telling me that we would likely hear it during my return visit in two weeks, the waiting was agony.  Thank God they eventually heard the baby’s heart beat.  Things were normal for a couple of weeks.

I returned to my doctor’s office for another prenatal visit, only to find out that my routine blood work revealed a result that was associated with a less than 1% chance that my baby might be born with Down syndrome. I never really had to make this kind of decision, but I knew that I worked best when I had all of the facts.  When the doctors asked me whether I wanted to undergo further tests to confirm whether the baby had Down syndrome I immediately said yes.

I probably should have been nervous when I arrived for the amniocentesis, but I felt at peace.  After about 40 minutes, and what seemed like an endless amount of attempts to obtain enough of a specimen to conduct the test, the waiting was finally over.  I now knew that my baby boy would be born with Down syndrome.

I have to say that I was overwhelmed with thoughts about what this news meant for our family.  I knew that I was going to bring a child into the world and that God does not make mistakes. I thought that people would respect our decision, but I was wrong.

I wanted to be happy.  I wanted to plan for the best.  I wanted to have support from my friends, family, and physicians.  Instead, I received so much negative feedback about our decision.  Health care providers bombarded me with all of the worst case scenarios, telling me things like “Your child will not walk until age 4 or 5” “ Your child will not be able to learn” “Your child will not be able to eat without significant difficulties”.  I wondered why more people didn’t simply say “Congratulations”  “We are praying for you” “We support your decision” or simply “How can we help”?

Despite the negative words and attitudes that surrounded me, I decided to stay positive.  I faithfully went to my prenatal appointments every two weeks and followed the doctor’s instructions. During one of those visits, I received a wonderful gift.  I saw my baby’s perfect face.  I immediately fell in love with his chubby cheeks, his pudgy nose, and his little fingers and toes. After that day, nothing anyone said could deter me. I loved this baby and I was committed to helping him have a wonderfully fulfilled life.  It didn’t matter what people had to say at that point.  I was keeping my baby.

Fighting through the negative sentiments and naysayers was the best choice I could have ever made. After Stuart’s birth, I connected with Child Find and arranged for services to be provided in our home.  Contrary to what I was told, Stuart walked at 14 months old,   ate everything he was given without any problems, and went to preschool and learned many things alongside other children.

I am not suggesting that all of this was easy.  It wasn’t.  As Stuart entered elementary school, we faced new challenges.  Teachers appeared to be unwilling to creatively meet Stuart’s unique learning needs.  In fact, some members of the educational team made us feel like they did not want to educate Stuart.  These new challenges did not deter me.  I remembered the commitment I made the day I first saw this wonderful child’s face and I did not give up.  Neither did he.

I learned more about special education and the IEP process.  Based upon the knowledge I obtained, I moved Stuart to a learning environment that worked for him.  Today, Stuart is 9 years old and attending third grade.  Most important, Stuart is thriving and learning.  He is eager to go to school and his education team embraces his unique strengths and abilities.

Stuart is one fantastic guy. He keeps me laughing and learning.  If I am having a bad day, Stuart says or does something that instantly brings a smile to my face.  He is truly my blessing from God.

Stuart enjoys reading books, watching movies, and playing video games.  He also loves to play baseball, roller-skate, box, and swim.  Stuart is also a big fan of his brother on the basketball court.  No one cheers for his brother louder and with more enthusiasm than Stuart.

Stuart is a huge part of our family and we love him more and more each day.  He has a smile that will light up a room and a personality as big as the sun.

About the Author: Shelvia lives in Newark with her two sons, Solomon and Stuart. She is board member for the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware. She is often seen leading DSA of DE social events, like the egg hunt and Valentine’s dance.

21 Stories for WDSD- My Brother, Nate

My name is Sam. I have a brother who has Down syndrome. And the experience is interesting because everyone helps you figure it out and you feel grateful. There’s good and bad. The good is you meet other people who are different from you but are very nice. The bad is that people underestimate people with Down syndrome. That makes me feel mad because I want to show them that people with Down syndrome can do everything a regular person can do and even better.

My brother Nate is 3. He has Down syndrome and no one underestimates him because he is very intelligent like any other person.  I like my little brother because he always comes into my room when I’m going to sleep and he hugs me.  When Nate had cancer I felt special because I was the only one who could make my brother laugh when he wasn’t feeling well.  He smiles every time I walk in the room.  I’m not a hero. I want to make sure he smiles when he’s feeling down.  Having a little brother isn’t always fun because he gets in my stuff and breaks things. But my life is better with a little brother because I have someone to look up to.

About the Author: Sam Griffith is an energetic 10-year-old who lives in North Wilmington with his mother, father and little brother, Nate. A native Delawarean, Sam is a fourth-grader at The Tatnall School who enjoys football, baseball, basketball, soccer and video games. When Nate was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for leukemia between October 2015 and September 2016, Sam was Nate’s hero.  The boys enjoy a very close relationship.  When Nate was born, Sam told him that he will always have his back and “anybody who messes with you, messes with me.” Sam continues to stand by that motto, and he makes his parents and little brother very proud.



21 Stories for WDSD- Nathan

I became a mom to a child with Down syndrome through adoption. Nathan had lived in a Bulgarian orphanage since he was one day old.  In Eastern Europe, many children with Down syndrome live in orphanages because there is little support for families caring for children with special needs.  The roads that led us to Nathan’s orphanage were unpaved, the surrounding buildings stark and cold.  One would never know children were housed in this building because even inside it was eerily quiet. When my 11 year old daughter and I sat in the director’s office waiting to meet him, there had been no laughter or smiles.  There was only solemn conversation between staff and our guide in a language I didn’t know.  I was told the director didn’t understand why we would choose to adopt a child with Down syndrome.

A tiny elf of a boy, 4 ½ years old, was brought into the room.  He couldn’t walk independently, but when his hands were released he stood solemnly by himself. Wispy brown hair covered his eyes.  He made his way slowly around the room, stopping briefly to guide each person’s hands in gentle clapping movements.  When he stopped in front of me, my heart melted.  Someone prompted me to lift him up and follow with him. He felt weightless in my arms. Stoic and silent, he showed no resistance to me holding him. We were taken to a room with toys and left with only our guide and that tiny child. We played, clapped, and sang.  Tentative smiles turned into grins that reached clear across his face. Certain play made him giggle and we fell in love with him. At times he just leaned into us, soaking up all our love.

As required for this country’s adoption process, we visited him several times before returning home.   The remaining paperwork would take six long months to process. Leaving the orphanage for the last time, my daughter started crying. That sweet boy wiggled out of his nanny’s arms and with speed that surprised us all, crawled down the hall toward the girl to which he had become so attached. She held him and cried. I cried. I think every eye in that place spilled tears. They had to pull him away from my daughter.  We cried in the car all the way back to the hotel.

When I met my son, I gave little thought to him having Down syndrome. We fell in love with that boy and his diagnosis didn’t matter to us.  What he did or didn’t do compared to his peers didn’t matter.   Down syndrome didn’t define him then and it didn’t when we were reunited six months later. Today, Nathan is a 12 year old boy who likes to listen to music, go swimming, eat chicken nuggets, and tease his sisters. He is very attached to his family, best friend, his bus aide, and his teachers. He goes to respite nights and parties. Every summer he attends the Days of Summer Camp and other activities hosted by the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware. Though the volunteers and staff have changed over time, we are grateful several have been there to support and encourage Nathan and our family since he joined us.  Seven years ago, our family chose to adopt a child from a place where people with Down syndrome are housed in orphanages and institutions.  But now, Nathan is a cherished son, brother, grandson, student, and valued member of our community- and he just happens to have Down syndrome.

About the Author: Jennifer is a mom to a diverse crew, including one with Down syndrome and one with a traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy. She appreciates beauty in nature, kindness in people, and a good yoga class.

21 Stories for WDSD- Familiarity with Down syndrome

My name is Courtney, and Matt and myself have two wonderful boys, Dylan and Lucas.  Dylan is almost 7 years old, and Lucas is almost 3 months old.  Lucas was diagnosed with Down syndrome when I was 13 weeks pregnant.

Our family is more alike than different.  We consist of two loving parents, two loving boys a dog and a snake(boy family!).  We go to parks, play outside, read bedtime stories and have milestones we set and reach.  Both of our boys cry, laugh, and snuggle.  The point is, we are more alike than different.

When we were at a routine prenatal check up, we were informed that our now 3 month old baby had a risk of having Down syndrome.  Our entire family was shocked, Matt’s older brother has Down syndrome, and it isn’t connected to us genetically.  We went ahead and got further testing done to be prepared.  Sure enough, our baby boy was officially diagnosed.  What did that mean to us? It meant that our rollercoaster of emotions were at an all time high. We were filled with fear of the unknown health risks, the unknown behaviors, the unknown path our baby will have to travel, but we still were filled with love, encouragement, and happiness, too. This was the beginning. Down syndrome is just a label it is not who our son, Lucas, is at all.  It is just as his blue eyes don’t define him, neither does this diagnosis.

Matt grew up with his brother and he said that having a brother with Down syndrome wasn’t any different than having any of his other siblings. They played, they argued and most of all, they loved one another.

As a family we have already learned to ask questions, reach out and accept that this journey is one which we have a lot of unknowns, but isn’t that true of any family with any child? Every child is different and has different needs. Diagnosis or not, we are more alike than different.

About the Author: Courtney is the mother of Dylan and Lucas. She and her husband, Matt, live in Selbyville, DE. They relocated from Baltimore in June.




21 Stories for WDSD- Down syndrome is like a fingerprint

Down syndrome is like a fingerprint

What do we know about fingerprints?
We know they are unique to each individual, and so it is with Down syndrome (Ds). We know that each person with Ds has an extra chromosome on their 21st pair, but what that means to each individual person is different. We know that having this extra chromosome can cause many things, but not the same thing for each person. We know it can lead to intellectual and physical challenges, but we cannot say that it effects each person in the same manner or at the same time. We at best can say, “An individual has Down syndrome,” just as we might look at a typical person on a plane next to us and wonder, “How did he get to be taller than me?”

This issue is our perception or point of view. Much of our lives are governed by our points of view, our observations, life experience, and this is the point I wish to convey to all of you today. “Don’t get trapped in your perception! It might just limit your view.”

Jason is my third child and he has Down syndrome. He is the baby of our family, but he surely is not a baby. We should not treat him that way (sometimes we forget this). Sometimes we assume if we speak louder Jason will hear us better, but Jason has no hearing issues.

What we sometimes forget is that more than anything else is that he is a teenager. If, for just a moment, we think back to our older children, we would realize they use to (and now that I think of it, still do) give us the “eye roll” that says, “I heard you just fine, I just have no plan to do it your way.”

I like to call it the perception trap. I learn every day that Jason understands more, and can do more then I might think. Whose fault is that? It surely is not his. I have also learned that I should not let myself fall into this trap or underestimate him, as it plays into Jason’s favor each and every time.

He knows exactly what he wants and acts decisively with purpose if it is something he plans or wants to do. If I am directing him to do something there always seems to be some hesitation as he is eyeing me up to see just how much I will do for him. Who really is at the disadvantage here?

I guess the thing I most wish to share during this month leading up to World Down Syndrome Day, is this: Just maybe we might be stuck on our own perception of what a person with Down syndrome can accomplish, or what they should be? Maybe it is not them that needs to conform to our thinking, but rather, maybe we as a people have to be more empathetic, compassionate, understanding, and respectful. Maybe we just might figure out that they know, contribute, and accomplish a lot more than we do, and that they’re smart enough and humble enough not to show their hand all of the time.

My advice, if I am at all qualified to give any, is this: Keep your eyes wide open. Learn to accept it is our perceptions that might not always be correct. Learn to watch without pre-judgment. In doing so, we might learn that every individual with that little extra on their 21st chromosome is probably a lot more than anyone might have expected. Always remember that each individual with Down syndrome has a fingerprint in life that is every bit as unique as every other persons’ in the world, and we should always be mindful of the great contributions they can and will make within our community and in our lives.

About the Author: Dave Gazzillo is the current President of the DSA of Delaware. Married to Jeanne, and the father of three, Jason being the youngest (Ds). Dave is a Senior Vice President of Statement Marketing operations at Bank of America. Through vision and leadership we hope to grow and mold a better more inclusive world one step at a time, so that all can participate and share.

21 Stories for WDSD- The Jastrebski Journey

March 7th- The Jastrebski Journey

When Lauren asked me to do a blog entry, I immediately thought of the article I did when Marc turned 18, and voted for the first time for President Obama.  But alas, I can’t find it, and so much has changed since then, maybe it’s for the best!

I remember vividly the births of all my children, but Marc was my first.  He was due on April Fools Day, 1989, and showed up on April 5.  Finding out his diagnosis, and his medical issues, was very hard.  I had some exposure to people with Down syndrome but not with heart issues, and honestly I cried so hard I wasn’t sure WHAT to feel.  And then I looked at that little face.

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