My Lucky Day-by Kathy Higgins
I have been working with families who have infants and toddlers with Down syndrome for 26 years. It started when I first came to The Children’s School for Early Development and I was asked to sit in on a group that our social worker Davida Levinson was facilitating. Unfortunately for us, Davida moved on. I was given the opportunity to take over the group. Little did I know at the time that this work would be the highlight of my career at Children’s School. Over the years, I have co-facilitated this group with three different wonderful moms: Anne Majsak, Terri Hunt and Barbara Nuccio, who is still with me today. We have met once a month either on a Wednesday or Thursday at The Children’s School all these years. As of this September, we decided to move to GiGi’s Playhouse Westchester in Ardsley, New York on Saturday mornings – once a month – from 10:00am to 11:30am.
Over the years, I have met so many wonderful families, many of whom I consider my friends. I have often had the privilege of being there when brand new parents walk through our door holding their beautiful new baby with so many mixed emotions. Having a baby is for the most part one of the most exciting times in a young family’s life. When a diagnosis of Down syndrome is given to those parents – whether it is pre-term, birth or many weeks and sometimes months after (which we have had) – parents are often devastated. It usually is followed by a period of mourning the loss of the perfect child they thought they were going to have. Then, on a very individual basis, parents start to wrap their head around what it would mean to have a child with Down syndrome. Of course one does not really know how it will be to parent any of our children until we actually parent. Unfortunately, or fortunately, no one told us how difficult parenting actually is.
What I have learned over these years is that these adorable babies have a tremendous amount of potential. With all of the services available to them and their partnering with the parents and family members, their achievements are endless. Not only is their potential remarkable, but what they have brought to their families is difficult to put into words. Families for the most part seem to grow stronger and closer with a special appreciation for life’s accomplishments.
The work of our group that will be continuing at GiGi’s is so important through those early years. I have watched friendships form that have lasted far beyond the infant/toddler stage. Social media is terrific, but the sharing and networking that I have observed when parents meet face to face is irreplaceable. A perfect example of this is the creation of GiGi’s Playhouse Westchester. Most of those wonderful parents that put this together met at our parent group.