When my son with Down syndrome was born in 1987 society had already come out on the other side of a knee jerk reaction to institutionalize. Instead, I was given the “Take him home and love him” message and the only thing I remember from our visit to a geneticist was, “He’ll never balance a checkbook.” Of course well meaning friends and family were quick to assure me that many people can’t balance their checkbooks, and we got a good laugh!
Two things happened that set me on my journey…a trip where I would confirm that Holland was indeed an awesome place. First, my own personal strength, believing that we’re only here for a visit and committed to making the most of everything given in life. And second, my mentor, friend, and founder of this organization, Gail Marino. A chance meeting with Gail, her forward thinking and her support of my family essentially changed life for my son.
Beginning in preschool at age 3, my son spent his entire education in inclusive classrooms with typical, age appropriate peers. As a parent, I felt an obligation to set the level of expectation for my child with Down syndrome and model it to those around me. I believed that my son belonged, and this conscious choice forced me to hone my advocacy skills and make things happen that wouldn’t have been possible without tenacity. I was once called relentless by a newspaper reporter and relished the thought that I had been noticed as such.
At the end of 26 years we celebrated his graduation from a 4 year college program for individuals who have developmental disabilities. Today he is an independent living, wage earning, volunteer and socially participating member of his community. All individuals who have Down syndrome have a civil right to access the things that typical peers access…some things take a little more advocacy than others, but the effort is so worth it as we hope to grow children who live, work, learn and play in their communities as adults.
Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization continues to follow the vision of our founder, believing in ALL individuals who have Down syndrome in our community…working to make futures brighter.
Post secondary education – The time is now! Article by Kelle Hampton