When I was 23 years old and fresh out of college, I became a Developmental Therapist. My job entailed going to different daycares and people’s homes in the Raleigh area and helping children, ages birth-3 years old, to meet their developmental milestones. There was so much joy in getting to support parents on their journey of helping their children take first steps, speak for the first time, and learn all kinds of new important play skills. There was nothing better than the days where I would walk into someone’s home and hear a parent say, “Guess who said their first word!!!!” Knowing I had a small part in the HUGE task of helping a child with special needs to grow and develop was so satisfying.
Fast forward 10 or so years and I find myself witnessing the same beautiful moments at GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh during the KinderMusik Program on 7/20/21. As the music therapist volunteer sings and encourages the children, ages 0-4 years old, to sing and move their bodies, suddenly, I’m having dejavu. One of the mom’s says, “Oh my goodness, he is sitting up by himself for the very first time!” My eyes dart to the sweet little boy sitting in front of her who is eagerly wiggling his little body to the music and has a big old grin on his face. It was as if he KNEW what he was doing was a big deal, and we all ate it up. You could see hope and encouragement in all our eyes, especially other parents.
This is why community support matters so deeply, especially when your child has Down syndrome. Realizing that you are not alone in your journey to raise your child, that there are others near you who are facing the same struggles and blessings, and that there are people waiting eagerly to come alongside you and your child to help them succeed, like GiGi’s volunteers.
To share in BIG moments like this one, and mundane moments (that are still extraordinary), is not a small thing. I’m so grateful that my community offers a place like GiGi’s playhouse that opens their doors to families and accepts and loves their children genuinely. We are sharing our lives here at GiGi’s and making incredible and unforgettable memories along the way.