They Threw Rocks At My Daughter And Called Her “Retard”

Nicole Stachiw and her mother, Diana.

A Mother’s Story

When I was pregnant with Nicole, I did not know that I was going to have a child born with Down syndrome. After she was born, the doctor came into my room and said, “You have a Mongoloid.” I said, “What? A Mongoloid?” And he said, “Yes.” He did not say “Down syndrome.” I was shocked. I could not believe it. I was in denial for a long time because I could not believe that this would happen to my baby.

When she became old enough, she didn’t want to go to school. I said, “Why not? You need to learn.” She would say, “No. I’m not going to school.” I took her along to visit a few public schools, but she refused to enroll, and would just cry and throw tantrums. I took her to the school at the Catholic parish where we belonged. At that time, they would not accept children with Down syndrome, or any other disability, for that matter. The principal said, “Let’s try her in a few classes such as reading, music, and gym.” She liked the classes, but then the children started making fun of her because they were not like her. She refused to return.

Once, we went to a well-known clothing store. They accused her of putting a jacket under her blouse! How could she put a jacket under her blouse? After that, Nicole never wanted to go back to the store. People were always accusing her of doing something she had not done, probably because she has Down syndrome. This was very painful for all of us.

Back home, our neighbors were being very cruel to her. Some of them would throw rocks at her, and call her “retard.” As a result, she never wanted to leave the house. During this time, her speaking skills began to fade because she was not interacting with others. She seldom smiled, and she became quite withdrawn and guarded.

My Nicole was in a cocoon for half of her life until we came to GiGi’s Playhouse.

Now she is a beautiful butterfly.

That was what her life was like until we came to GiGi’s Playhouse. The minute we walked in the door, she fell in love with the place. She was accepted as she was and she made many new friends. She began taking speech pathology and her ability to communicate verbally began to return. Something so simple made such a difference in her life. She began smiling again, and also developed a unique skill I never knew she possessed. She became an artist! Her specialty is painting butterflies, a perfectly fitting subject given the transformation she has undergone. I asked her one time, “Why did you not want to go to school when you were younger?” She said, “Because it was not my school. This is my school. This is my place, Mom.” I just can’t say enough about how GiGi’s Playhouse has impacted my daughter’s life. My Nicole was in a cocoon for half of her life until we came to GiGi’s Playhouse. Now she is a beautiful butterfly. Thank you!

As told to and edited by
Guy Vaccaro, Major Gifts Executive Director
224-427-4169. Photos: Guy Vaccaro

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