Receiving the News…
Darrell and Diane each shared their first feelings:
Darrell: We found out Kaitlyn had Down syndrome the day she was born. At that time I was just excited to have a healthy baby girl and was more concerned about my wife and her emotions. Besides, I felt it was important to take care of the baby first. Down syndrome was something to worry about later. When confirmation came a few days later, I/we got serious about learning about Trisomy 21 and taking the steps needed for Kaitlyn’s future. My wife was Kaitlyn’s champion then and continues to be so. While I was working, she was calling and getting a case worker, enrolling in First Steps (an early intervention program), buying books, and finding a great pediatrician.
Dianne: Kaitlyn was my third child so the experience was not new to me. She did not cry much at first, and I kept asking, “Is she ok?” Darrell would say, “She is great, really great.” I did not get to hold her very long, and her brothers did not get to come in to the delivery room as planned. They whisked her away and seemed concerned. Now I know they were checking her heart and everything else because they were pretty sure Kaitlyn had Down syndrome. When the diagnosis came, I cried a lot. I was just not ready to receive the news especially since everyone at delivery had told me all was fine. Kaitlyn was exactly what I prayed for; a healthy baby girl, a girl with blond hair and blue eyes like her dad. After that first night, life just moved on much like the poem, ‘Welcome To Holland.’ (read it here)
How We Make a Difference…
We make a difference for Kaitlyn by making sure she is actively engaged in doing what she loves to do. She loves to be involved in dance, acting, singing in Variety Clubs Chorus and Tae Kwon Do. Dianne is still her champion in the school system by making sure she is in the right vocational program that meets Kaitlyn’s skill set, personality, and challenges her to grow.
Together, we are active in the community of people with disabilities. We facilitate and run a group for adults with Down syndrome called High 5 People With Disabilities. The group participates in the community volunteering and completing service projects around St Louis. We are also involved with the Catch 22 Miracle League and Variety The Children’s Charity of St. Louis.
About Our Kaitlyn…
Kaitlyn will generally try to do anything. She has an incredible positive attitude and is generally a happy person. She loves people and feeds off of their support for her. Kaitlyn is special in that she does not seek to be in the spotlight, but she is she is not afraid of being in it. She is great at problem solving.
Dianne shares about dropping Kaitlyn off in kindergarten:
“When she was in Kindergarten I would drop her off at the curb of the school like everyone else. I would wait to see her walk in. She was so sure of herself. The first day I dropped her was the third day of school, she wheeled her back pack to the door, opened the door but the heavy door closed before she could walk in. I got nervous. I thought I was going to park and run up and help her out,” writes Dianne. “Nope, she opened the door tossed her backpack in first and jumped in before it closed. I was totally amazed. The other moms were looking for me like ‘Where is her mom?’ But, I thought if she could figure out how to get into school with that heavy door as an obstacle, she would work out other obstacles.”
What We Want to Share…
We think the most important thing when raising any child with disabilities is that you treat them like you would any other child. Hold the same expectations for them to be behaved, mannerly, work as hard as they are capable, and not allow the disability to be an excuse, but instead be their advocate to allow them to take part in opportunities. Seek out opportunities in their typically developing peer groups.
Do not continue to baby them when they are no longer a baby. Love, love, love them. There is nothing WRONG with them. They are just differently abled. Help them find their gifts and talents, because everyone has them. We are all different. We are inspired by Kaitlyn every day. She has taught us so much about being a parent. Lastly, falling down and making mistakes makes you stronger. It is ok to fall down. It is ok to make mistakes.