It’s October 31st. Tomorrow we turn the page to November. Another Down Syndrome Awareness Month is “in the books,” as my grandfather used to say. What an October we had as a community! In addition to an extraordinary celebration at the Baltimore Buddy Walk, as a group we completed the 31 for 21 Challenge.
Erika and I found out in utero that our daughter Amara had an extra chromosome. The doctor told us that she would have a myriad of health problems and would be a burden to us as her caretakers. As we soon discovered, the bleak picture this doctor painted of Amara’s life turned out to be a complete fallacy.
Since I had my son Luis, I have met so many people who serve as inspirations to me. These people saw a barrier to their loved ones with disability and took it upon themselves to knock down that barrier. Some of these people may have simply done it for their own child but their actions benefit the entire community.
My name is Melissa Silverman and I am 34 years old. Through the years, I have been involved with many different programs, such as Girl's club, Brightside project, Special Olympics swimming and soccer, Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters, attending National Down Syndrome Congress conventions, being a board member for 3 years on the NDSC board, numerous public speaking engagements on self-advocacy, and attending the Live Up weekends for adults with Down Syndrome.
Our names are Rich and Dani Gardner. We adopted our daughter Sarah when she was two weeks old. Sarah has Down syndrome. When we made the decision to adopt, we didn’t set out to adopt a child with special needs. We had been trying to have a child for many years, and suffered several miscarriages and failed IVF procedures. It was a very hard time.
It’s hard – impossible, really - to talk about our son Isaac without mentioning ‘Down Syndrome’ and ‘adoption.’ Our journey into parenthood was not simple. The road was long and the trek was difficult. After struggling with infertility for a few years, my husband and I made the decision to grow our family through adoption.
Seeing the beauty in being different. That’s what we all strive for -- others to be able to see the beauty in our differences. I see the beauty in my daughter Liliana, 18 months old, born with Down syndrome. She is every bit as amazing and unique as the next 18 month old without Down syndrome. That is what makes her perceived differences no different than the rest.
This fall, Lily walked into school, on her first day of kindergarten, next to her two brothers, and all of the other children. She said good-bye to me, and off she went with her giant backpack on her back, chatting with her twin brother, not even looking back. Come on, moms need hugs, blown kisses, and SO many pictures, on their kids’ first day of school.
Thirty-two+ years ago, a young couple contacted the Loyola College Speech and Language Center in Columbia requesting speech and language treatment for their young son with Down syndrome. That family, along with a handful of other families who were founding members of CDSPG, helped jumpstart our fledgling program and served as an impetus for a 6-year grant from the Strauss Foundation to enable us to develop a treatment program for children with Down syndrome.
As I fill out my college applications, I can’t help but think of my brother and sister who will not be going to college or even graduating from high school. They will never have a high paying job. They will never be able to drive a car. They will never be able to independently support themselves. When society sees people like them, they automatically jump to certain conclusions.
Jackson was 2 years old and I was still struggling to accept his diagnosis, the medical issues, the therapy sessions, and scheduling demands of balancing a nursing career with motherhood. This path we were on was so unfamiliar and so full of pot holes. I loved this little boy but could somehow not reconcile the grief. I hadn’t chosen this path. I didn’t think I was strong enough to walk this road.
Amara came to City Neighbors filled with ideas, filled with love, filled with her own thoughts and wonderings. Filled with her own challenges to conquer, and her own character to build. And for these past three years we have had the opportunity to get to know her. She is unique. She is smart. She is Amara.