Family Stories – Audrey and her Best of All

Audrey is a bright light who is at our Cleveland Playhouse several times a week. She can be found drumming during Project Pulse, making new friends at Games with Friends, and giggling throughout Teen Tastic. As Audrey has grown, she has become a leader amongst her peers. She always wants to to help those around her, while also acting as a strong peer model for new friends and participants at the Playhouse. Like any teen, Audrey LOVES her phone. She can often be found texting, FaceTiming, or utilizing the “BeReal” app. With that, comes its obstacles that Danelle, Audrey’s mom, has handled with such grace. While learning social and cell phone etiquette, Danelle is not afraid to hold her daughter to high expectations. In doing so, Audrey has time and time again proven that she can meet and surpass those expectations. For those reasons and many more, we are so proud to highlight Audrey through the lens of her mom.

Tell us about Audrey! What does she love to do, her likes/dislikes, etc.?

Audrey loves socializing with her friends and family. She likes camping, helping around the house, playing Uno, and watching TV. She does not like thunderstorms, bugs, or people staring at her.

While raising Audrey, what has been one of your proudest moments?

Wow! I have many proud moments with her that it’s hard to choose just one! I am so proud of her caring nature. I’ve had people tell me that she seems to know when they are down and in need of a hug. Through the years, and just recently, her teachers have told me how she is very helpful to her peers, especially those who use wheelchairs. She makes it a point to engage them in conversation and get their needed classroom supplies. She is also always quick to take care of me, especially when I’m ill.

What similarities and differences have you experienced in raising your daughters – Audrey and Payton?

We’ve raised them as similarly as possible. They both are expected to do chores. They’ve both been disciplined the same – depending on the situation, of course. The differences we’ve experienced are learning abilities. Payton was in the gifted program at school so learning came easy, whereas Audrey had to work harder. Another difference is the social part. Some, but very little teaching was needed for Payton. Also, Payton’s social life is easier and more accessible. She can hop in the car and drive to visit friends. Audrey’s social gatherings have to be arranged and involve someone driving her there.

While raising teen girls, what is your best piece of advice for a parent going through the start of teen years?

First and foremost, keep a sense of humor, otherwise, you will find it harder to cope with the moods. I was lucky that four of my best girlfriends and I were able to commiserate and laugh with each other because our daughters and sons are all around the same age. Also, it’s important to remember this is only a phase and their developing brain and hormones are making them turn into these crazy people – and this is normal development!

What is one obstacle you’ve faced while raising Audrey?

The social aspect of everyday life has probably been the biggest obstacle through the years. Where it is easier for typical peers to pick up on social cues and norms, Audrey, and I’m sure most neurodivergent peers, need to be taught them. For example, hugging – who and when it is appropriate to hug. How to be a good friend.  Lately, it’s technology and social media. Making sure she is not divulging identifying information and learning cell phone etiquette.

How did you overcome this obstacle?

I can’t say that the obstacle has been overcome. We are constantly teaching and reminding as needed using visuals, social stories, or even apps.

Audrey LOVES her phone! Raising teens in the day of technology can be tough, what is your advice for navigating this integral part of being a teenager?

We are still working on this one. She enjoys calling, FaceTiming, and texting her friends and family. When she first started, she did not know about cell phone etiquette. She would call people at the crack of dawn or late at night, or she’d get feisty if she didn’t get a response right away or a FaceTime that was promised. That social aspect of realizing that people’s lives don’t revolve around hers needed to be taught, so we had many discussions that often got “forgotten”. I found parental settings on her phone that don’t allow her to text or call during restricted hours. I also created a visual list of the rules that we taped in a couple of places in her room. She seems to be doing well with those reminders!

How do you ensure Audrey is making appropriate decisions on her phone?

I periodically check her phone messages, call log, and pictures. I also make sure that she “friends” me on any of her social media accounts so I can monitor her activity. Lastly, I found a parental setting where I have to approve apps she wants to download to her phone. I check, as best as I can, how appropriate it is for her or what information they glean from her using the app.

What are a few things you hope Audrey accomplishes?

I hope Audrey accomplishes whatever it is she wants – a job/career she enjoys, a satisfying social life, and independence.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself about raising your kids?

I don’t know that I would have any different advice other than not to get caught up in feeling any sort of guilt or wondering if there was anything you could have done differently. If you’re doing the best that you know how, with lots of love, then that’s all you have to do.

What would you like people to know about Audrey and how can that change the community around us?

I would like people to know that Audrey, just like all of our friends with disabilities, is capable of soooo much more than people think. She even surprises ME sometimes. She has more common sense than some of her peers and her memory is incredible. She’s hilarious, caring, and thoughtful.  Most importantly, she has the exact same emotions and feelings as everybody else. Hopefully, that can change the community around us by showing that she, as well as others with Down syndrome, are more like everyone else than they are different.

What is one fear you might have had early on, but has now been eliminated?

I was blessed to have my fears eliminated before we even left the hospital after she was born. I have a strong faith in God. I woke up one night worrying about what kind of life she would have – would she be treated well by other kids and society; would she get married, drive, get a job, play sports, and attend dance lessons? Would she have medical issues? As I lay there trying to stop worrying and fall back asleep, an old hymn that I hadn’t heard in years came into my thoughts, “And I will raise you up on eagles’ wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of My hands.”  After thanking God for calming my fears, I fell asleep and have been at peace with her future and abilities ever since.

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