Hello October! With October comes fall weather, hayrides, pumpkin patches, and cute fall clothing. Except we live in Mississippi and the “fall weather” is more like “mild summer weather” and we sweat our tails off for the sake of cute fall clothing. But never mind our temperature struggles, October also brings National Down Syndrome Awareness Month! We, as members of the Down syndrome family, get to use this entire month as a platform to help educate everyone on just what Down syndrome is and how great it could potentially be.
When I first learned Avalynn had Down syndrome, I began following as many social media accounts of families with children with DS as I could. I just needed to see what my future might look like. While working at camp gave me experience with older children with DS, I knew next to nothing about babies and young children with an extra chromosome. Once Avalynn was born, I joined several Facebook groups of moms and families with children with DS so that I might gain advice and wisdom from parents going through the same walk of life. While I have gained a lot of knowledge from these FB groups, I have also learned that many mamas with children with DS get easily offended by people in the general public who might come across as rude when asking about their children. (i.e. Another child asks why the child with DS “looks funny,” a coworker uses the word “retarded” to describe a child with DS, or a random person in the grocery store tells a mom the reason her child has DS is because of all the chemicals in the food she eats.) Yes, some people’s words can be hurtful, and some people might truly just be mean, but I believe the majority of these comments come from the general public not being educated on Down syndrome. For this reason, I am not easily offended by these types of comments. Yes, using “the R word” in general conversation makes me twitch a little bit, but I know no one is saying it as a jibe towards me or my daughter. And I would much rather have someone ask me a blunt question about DS instead of awkwardly staring at my kid wondering what is wrong with her. This is what Down syndrome awareness month is for: to teach everyone what Down syndrome entails and to learn to accept and include people with Down syndrome.
Two of my favorite social media accounts to follow for Down syndrome are Enjoying the Small Things – Kelle Hampton and Ruby’s Rainbow. I’ve mentioned both on the blog before, especially Ruby’s Rainbow, which is a nonprofit organization which awards scholarships for people with DS to attend college. This month, the two fabulous moms of these accounts are teaming up for their October Awareness Campaign, which mainly focuses on inclusion in school this year. For those of you who don’t know much about inclusion, it’s just what it sounds like: children with DS being included with their peers in school. Some schools only offer a separate special education classroom, but for most kids with disabilities, being included in a general education classroom is more beneficial for their development and learning. I am so glad they’re focusing on this so that I may learn what I can do to advocate for Avalynn whenever she does enter the education system.
Since I know many of you are mainly here to read about my adorable child, here’s some quick Avalynn updates. Along with her regular occupational, speech, and physical therapies, she has also started Kindermusik! It’s a music class with different classes for each age group, and it also focuses on certain developmental aspects all babies need to learn. So far, Avalynn loves it (I can really tell by the intense, blank stare she constantly gives her teacher). Personally, I believe this class will prove to be as beneficial as her other therapies, and I am excited to see her grow in it.
A few weeks ago, we had a very special lunch date. We met up with two of my former campers and their moms from the special needs session at my camp. I loved getting to see the girls again, and they loved meeting and holding Avalynn. It was so nice to get to sit and talk with the moms about their past experiences and my present experience. These are the type of connections that come along with being inducted into the Down syndrome family. While I have always loved these two families dearly, I am sure we never would have planned to share this time together. Because of Avalynn, I am now connected to these people in a way I never expected, and I can only hope Avalynn will grow up to be like these wonderful girls.
Avalynn is taking selfies, abusing the cats, army crawling, and has learned to make a new “scrunch” face. And this just in: my mom tells me Avalynn just regular crawled about two feet all by herself! Yay! (My mom keeps Ava during the day and takes her to her therapy appointments while I am at work.)
If any of you ever have any questions about Down syndrome, please feel free to ask! Like I said, I am not easily offended, and if you ask a question I don’t know the answer to, that just gives me more reason to learn! This whole thing started because of Avalynn, and I wouldn’t be doing right by her if I didn’t try to prepare the world for when she’s ready to take it over.