Receiving any kind of diagnosis for your child can be scary. People are typically afraid of what they don't know. For me, I can honestly say that I don't think I had ever met a person with Down syndrome before my daughter was born. And I find that very sad. How did I go 28 years and never meet a person with Down syndrome, or really never have much interaction with people with intellectual disabilities? Looking back, it's hard to understand how that even happens. Today, everywhere I go there are people with intellectual disabilities. Adults working in the community, kids going to school with my kids, families out eating with each other......the list could go on and on. So how did I go most of my life never experiencing life the way I am experiencing it now?
When Sophia was 7-8 months old, I was put in contact with a local mom, who had a son with Down syndrome. She invited me to be a part of a local group called, the Wabash Valley S.T.A.R.S. (striving toward acceptance, respect and support.) Wabash Valley S.T.A.R.S. is a play/support group for parents, caregivers and families who have a loved one with Down syndrome. Going to that group that day, 4 1/2 years ago, was one of the best things I ever did. It gave me a chance to meet some incredible families, who have helped me along this journey. They have given me support, advice, and a shoulder to lean on when I just needed a break.
I value the friendships that I have developed with people from our support group. Walking down the road of special needs isn't always easy, but it's always been worth it. As parents who all have a child with special needs, we can relate on a whole other level than with parents who don't know what it's like to raise a child with developmental delays. These women for me are my safety net. Whether they are walking ahead of me, beside me, or behind me, we are all in this together. When it feels like the world is against you some days, it's nice to know your always have someone who understands.
But being a part of the Wabash Valley S.T.A.R.S. has not only benefited me, it's impacting my entire family. My girls are going to grow up knowing that just because people are different from one another, doesn't mean that we treat them with any less friendship or respect.
I grew up being a little intimidated by individuals with special needs. I felt uncomfortable if I couldn't understand what was being spoken to me. I felt awkward if someone displayed actions that weren't considered "socially acceptable". Those were MY issues, not anybody else's. My kids are learning that things don't always happen the same way with every person. We all look different, and sound different, and act different......and that's ok.
**You can find Wabash Valley S.T.A.R.S. on facebook and get information about upcoming events!**