GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix-“Changed Our Lives”


“My name is Elena and I am the mother to the most quirky, fun-loving, sweet, endearing, joyful, exuberant little boy this world has ever seen. Dylan will turn 5-years-old in in a few weeks and this our story of how we found GiGi’s Phoenix Playhouse and the effect it had on our family.

We knew early on in my pregnancy that Dylan had Down syndrome and upon further confirmation via ultrasound we discovered Hydrocephalus as well. We naturally began the process of familiarizing ourselves with his dual diagnoses and started establishing a relationship with what would be Dylan’s team of specialists. Dylan was born via C-section six weeks early and spend nearly two months in the NICU. For the next year and a half, he would undergo many surgeries and procedures along with numerous hospital stays.

When the “smoke finally cleared” and Dylan was medically able to venture out beyond our home and the hospital, Dylan’s nurse and I decided to visit a place I had heard of from another mom who had a child with Down syndrome. That place was GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix. I never realized walking through the doors for the first time that this place was going to change our lives.

We were so warmly greeted by Laura, the SLP that co-leads LMNOP as well as all the wonderful families and volunteers. For that one hour I was finally able to really breathe for the first time since Dylan had joined our family and it opened my eyes to a world of possibilities for my sweet Dilly. I met other moms and dads who were struggling or had struggled with the some of the same things I was regarding DDD, respite, therapies, etc. and they were able to offer insight and sincere, emotional support.

Since that first day I have watched my son develop social skills, learn sign language, learn how to sit, get around by scooting and now walking in his gait trainer and almost on his own, as well as getting his tracheotomy removed and beginning to talk. I have had the pleasure of sharing these milestones with my GiGi’s family, as they share theirs with us. I’m thankful we get to watch our children grow up together and have this wonderful place of acceptance and opportunity to share with each other and the world.”

Submitted by:

Elena Wandler, GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix Volunteer Co-Coordinator and Board Secretary

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