Down syndrome awareness and acceptance-a father’s perspective.

Since Naomi’s birth I see the world differently than I used to.  I never put much thought into how people with disabilities were treated prior to my daughter being born.  Every once in a while I might read a story or see a news segment about someone with a disability accomplishing something amazing, but I always looked at it through the lens of “wow, they overcame that disability to accomplish a lot.”  Over the past four years my outlook has changed.  It isn’t about overcoming disabilities to accomplish something… it is simply accomplishing something because of ability.
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When you have a child born with Down syndrome the first few weeks are filled with every doctor and therapist warning you about the dangers and risks that come with the extra chromosome.  It is enough to put a lot of doubt in your mind, and you begin to wonder “what will my child be able to accomplish?”  It is easy to subconsciously begin to put up walls and barriers on
what your child can achieve before you even get to know them.  The good news is, you quickly learn that the doctors, therapists, and even you are wrong.  Your child won’t be restricted in what they can accomplish as long as you and the other adults around remove the guardrails and accept that they are just like any other child.

The most eye opening moment for me as Naomi’s father was the first time we got together with some parents of older children with Down syndrome.  I quickly realized she’s just a kid.  She would become a kid who plays, a kid who jokes around, a kid who learns, and a kid who accomplishes.  That is what GiGi’s Playhouse does for parents.  It provides a place for us to learn by observation.  We get to see that just like anybody else, our children have abilities.  The fact that the Playhouse programming grows with families into adulthood provides a continued learning experience for parents.  We get to see what the next phase of life will bring.  When Naomi was a baby, we quickly learned that she would sing and dance and potty train just like any other toddler.  Now that she’s a preschooler, we can see that she’ll read and do math in the future just like any other child.  And I’m sure when she’s a teenager we’ll learn that she’ll socialize and have a boyfriend just like any other teenager. Although I’m sure all dads are convinced their daughter won’t be allowed to date, whether she has Down syndrome or not!

Four years after her birth, now when I look at Naomi, I think about everything she is going to accomplish because of her abilities.  GiGi’s Playhouse has provided me a window into her future and the possibilities are endless.

Written by Josh Ellovich.

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