Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Help to Spread Awareness about Down Syndrome

Friday is a blog hop for Down Syndrome Awareness!
Please share this button on your site through Friday so that others will join!
The more people we can reach the better chance
our kiddos have for a more tolerant future.

Now more then ever we need to promote awareness.
Well just read this...
Safer Down Syndrome Test Hits Market Monday

A quote from the article...
"a genetic condition marked by mental retardation
and early death that affects one in 691 babies."

The number of people out there that are misinformed and
ignorant about Down syndrome is
FAR GREATER then the number of those like us.

How will you make a difference?
What can you do to help prenatally diagnosed mothers?
How can we stop the elimination of an entire population of human beings?

We spread the word people.
You spread the word.

The blog hop is this Friday.
Please sign up and let's try to reach as many non-down syndrome related blogs
and viewers as we possibly can!
Just click on the button to find out how.
Share the button with others.

You can also participate in a Facebook Event to spread awareness.
Just go here to find out how...
Hoppin' for 21 on Facebook

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sharing Resources

Sharing Resources for our families of special needs children

When we went to our educational services fair for the local air force base in September, I networked with several groups during this visit. I wanted to take the time to share what they can offer our Down syndrome community and other special needs community members here locally.

Georgia Department of Education
The Georgia Department of Education website is a good learning base to learn about education in the state of Georgia and how it affects your child. The website is There are many related links to such sites as Babies Can’t Wait, The Georgia Advocacy Office and The State Education Rules. You will find federal links such as IDEA and No Child Left Behind. You can find a drop down box in the middle of the page. See below.
Parent to Parent of Georgia
Parent to Parent of GA

Parent to Parent of Georgia provides a database for special needs parents related to services available for your child. You can visit their website at or call 1-800-229-2038 to receive personalized help. Parent to Parent can match you with another parent who has similar experiences as your own. Parents can be matched based on health needs, diagnosis, and educational needs. If you are willing to be a parent for others to talk to, please call to place your name in the database. All services are free of charge. Services they provide include:
  • Support Services
  • Information Support
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Leadership Involvement
Easter Seals of Southern Georgia
The Easter Seals provide services for people with disabilities of all ages. Their services include Vocational Services, Community Living Support, Adult Day Programs, Residential Services, and Respite Care/Family Support. They have a program called Champions for Children which is funded by a grant. They provide services for families not eligible for Katie Beckett, age 21 and under who live at home with a physical, cognitive, developmental or medial disability. They can help with respite care, medical supplies and equipment, medical services and therapy, dental and optical services, travel reimbursements for medical appointments, and recreational or therapeutic activities. You can find them at Phone number is 229-439-7061 for the southern region office. Local office number is 229-247-5912.

Babies Can’t Wait
Babies Can’t Wait is a program in Georgia providing children from birth to age 3 who provide evaluations and assessments to determine services needed for children who have disabilities or developmental delays. If services are determined to be needed, these are provided in places where the children live and learn. Services they provide include:
  • assistive technology
  • audiology
  • family training and counseling
  • health services
  • medical diagnostic services
  • certain nursing services
  • nutrition services
  • occupational therapy
  • physical therapy
  • speech therapy
  • social work
  • psychological services
  • vision services
  • transportation to services
  • special instructions
To contact the local office, call 229-245-6565.

I will share other opportunities for our children with special needs in a future post. If you are unsure of where to start, please contact us for further information. If we are unable to provide you with the answers, we will direct you to the appropriate contact. If you know of a service that would be a benefit to our members or other special needs groups, please contact us with the information so that we can share with others.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Guest Post: Meet the Smiths

(Posted from Crazy Beautiful Love)

A few nights ago I posted about a beautiful little almond eyed girl by the name of Renee. Tonight her parents are posting as my guests. They are not bloggers but I wanted them to have an opportunity to share about their experiences with a T21 rockin' toddler.
If you ever meet these guys in person, you can tell in an instant when their eyes fall upon Renee that they are desperately in love with her. They are proud of her; you can see it in every thing they do. She is their only child and so like all new parents, they are experiencing for the first time the unexpected joys of parenthood while also wading new waters with Down syndrome.

And now, without further adieu...Meet the Smiths.

In the words of Emily (aka mommy).....
A perfect representative of Down Syndrome means:  Beautiful, sweet, determined, loving, inquisitive, intelligent, teacher, shy, chatty, excited, strong, able, and just plain perfect the way she Renee!
I was scared for her future after we were told over the phone when she arrived at the NICU in Albany, GA that she might have Down Syndrome.  What does this mean for my Renee, the child that I loved even before she was conceived?  My husband and I tried for 3 years with many miscarriages, fertility treatment, and finally surgery to conceive our little girl.  After a pregnancy filled with preterm labor, partial bed rest, and a footling breach presentation, Renee was born exactly at 38 weeks.  She had problems breathing and possible "seizure like activity".  She was transported to Albany while I was still in my c-section medicated fog.  I had to stay at the hospital for 3 days without my little girl.  My husband Todge, stepped up to the plate daily as he came to see me and then drove the 1 1/2 hours to see Renee and then came back to my hospital room to show me the pictures of the day and to provide me with updates on her health.  I was left sitting in my room surrounded by my friends just lost in my thoughts and research.  Everything that you are told is so negative...she will have delays in development, she may have eating problems, etc.  I mourned the loss of the child that I thought that I was having and fell in love with Renee (she is way better than the child I thought that I would have).  This past 14 months have been a challenge filled with Renee's 12 days in the NICU, Todge's deployment to Iraq, Renee's 5 hospitalizations with reoccurring pneumonia,  changing doctors, specialist in Jacksonville, FL (120 miles away), breathing treatments 24/7 for 4 months straight, changing from daycare to a great friends home because of Renee's health, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and Georgia Pines for hearing impaired families, all while working full time as a United States Air Force Paralegal.  Through it all I had the continued love and support from my husband, our families, and our friends.  Todge and I are Renee's biggest advocates and will do whatever it takes for her to have the best opportunities in life!  I would do it all over again in a heart long as I have Renee in my life, I am a better woman and fulfilled mother!    

In the words of Todge (aka daddy)...
I was a little worried at first that having a child with DS; that it would end up being an almost insurmountable obstacle. I said to myself, how can you take care of this special little girl? You don't even have an typical child that you have taken care of and have not even had a decent track record with house plants or fish. But after the first time I looked into those piercing icy blue eyes, my mind was set at ease. Don't get me wrong, I still most likely can’t keep a house plant alive, but my baby girl Renee, she has blessed my life in ways I never thought possible. It is still a challenge being a new father but I don't really fear or worry about it anymore. I revel in the fact that I have a loving, healthy, rambunctious little girl. God has blessed Emily and I with Renee.  I would not change it for the world.

Make sure to come back tomorrow everyone where the linky should be up and running. I'm over the moon excited about a blog hop on the 21st to show support for all the designer gene beauties in the Miss Renee.
Happy Friday!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Guest Blogger- Donna Johnson

For the full post, please visit Crazy Beautiful Love.

"Great Expectations"
Guest: Donna Johnson
“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it and think how different it's course would have been. Pause, you who read this, and think for a long moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on that memorable day.”  -Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
I am sure many of you have had days which stick out in your mind as an "epic" day. It is a moment in time that creates a ripple in the timeline of your life. A day which you can define as life changing. For me, one such day came on the morning of a beautiful Easter Sunday.
Katie was born the day before Easter and less than 24 hours after her birth we would hear the words, "we think your daughter has Down syndrome". These words would be the formation of the first link in my life to a world that I had not ever been a part of. Three and a half years have passed since those first words were spoken to me and the formation of the links keep on growing. I am changed in ways I never dreamed possible. My chains are definitely made up of gold and flowers, tulips if you please. (Now mind you I have loved tulips long before Welcome to Holland came out. If you have no clue as to what I am talking about, google the phrase Welcome to Holland.)

My husband, Kiley and I have been married for 16 years. We both work full time, me in oncology and my husband in prison management. We were married for 4 years before our son arrived. Blake is 12 and in the 7th grade. It would be 9 years after his birth that Katie would arrive, a surprise baby after a wonderful vacation. Blake and Katie share the same type of heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot. When I heard Katie had a heart defect too, I was so upset  to know that I had two heart babies.  Never mind the Ds diagnosis. Katie would be shipped off to the NICU in Florida due to her CHD diagnosis. We stayed in the hospital for 6 weeks during this time dealing with breathing and feeding issues. Once we got home, we worked on keeping Katie healthy for her heart surgery. Blake underwent heart repair at 19 months in an emergency surgery--he was undiagnosed until two days before his surgery when he underwent a heart cath. Katie had her heart surgery at 5 months of age. It was nerve racking to have to see both of your children undergo such a complex procedure; they are both doing wonderfully now. Blake even plays football for his middle school team! Katie also was diagnosed with a form of seizures called Infantile Spasms at 8 months of age. Of everything we went through, this was by far the hardest thing for me to handle. After several months of nonstop seizures, they were able to get her seizures under control and she has been seizure free since. I am happy to report that health wise she is doing amazing now. Really, the biggest challenge we face is that the 9 year age difference in our children is like raising both of them as only children! Talk about having our work cut out for us. I would do it again in a heartbeat though. I just don't want another 9 year age gap between them!

I have been asked several times to describe to other people what it is like living with a child who has Ds. To be honest, some days are good, some are bad, just like it would be had I not had a child with special needs. The National Down Syndrome Congress promotes a slogan stating "More alike than different.". That is certainly the case in our lives. We do everything any other family would do. We go on vacations, Katie goes to school, she likes to play outside, she loves to watch tv, she has her favorite foods, and she loves music among many other things. In short, she is living a regular life. But what about all of those other things you ask--things such as therapists, support groups, IEP's, early intervention, and delays? Well yes, they are part of our everyday life too, but we are not defined by those things. I like to think of our lives as being enhanced by these things. Society's perception of Ds for the most part has been one that believes our children are the iron and chain links. That we are bound to a life of doom and gloom, that we and our children are suffering, that they are a burden to society. Have we become so selfish as a society that we would put less value on a child who has special needs? That their life is not worthy because they have a little extra genetic makeup? I know that we face many challenges ahead, but what family doesn't? Who is to say that I won't have more challenges in life with my "typical" child?

I find it a privilege that I am allowed to raise my two children. I look at my daughter and son daily knowing that I am blessed. I have learned more about life in these last three plus years than all my other years combined.  You cannot see my thoughts or feel the emotions that come from my heart, but let me tell that it encompasses a very deep emotion within me. I can't imagine my children any other way, especially Katie having Down syndrome. I like to think that she is the best parts of me and her dad put together. I have never been more proud then to have her beside me as I navigate this life here on Earth.

Your links are what you make of them--will yours be made of gold and flowers or iron and thorns?
 A word to any expectant mom or newly diagnosed family---love your child first. Down syndrome is a part of your child, but is not all of your child. You may have many thoughts and emotions in those first few days, weeks and months after you are told--"I think your child may have Down syndrome.....". It won't seem like it at the time, but everything will work itself out. You are not alone in this journey and everything you feel is normal. Again, love your child first, all the rest will fall into place. Katie and the rest of us Johnson's can attest to that!
-Donna Johnson

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Down syndrome Awareness Month!!

Greetings everyone.  As we go into the fall season, we are celebrating many things here in Georgia.  Things such as fall football being in full swing, the cooler temperatures, the gorgeous changing of the tree leaves, and many fall festivals.  Did you know that this is also the month to celebrate the extra 21st chromosome?  Before my child was born, I had no clue.  This is just an extra way of really bringing Down syndrome into the mainstream.  We have to continue to be advocates heard on every level in order to promote acceptance and understanding of what Down syndrome is. 

We will be joining other teams for the annual Buddy Walk in Tallahassee, Florida next weekend (October 8th).



Pre-registration is now closed, but you can still register the day of the walk.  The event takes place from 9 am-12noon.  Please remember to wear sunscreen and be prepared for warm weather.  The walk is a fun mile.  We plan on walking together as a group.  For those of you who have pre-registered, shirts will be issued the day of the walk.  Please let everyone know to plan on changing into their shirts after we receive them once we check in that morning.  Concessions will be on hand for food and drinks.  For more information, please click here.   We look forward to representing our group and collecting ideas as we move forward in hosting our own walk here in Valdosta next year. 

In other news, the group had a fun outing to Leapin’ Lizards Fun Zone here in Valdosta for September. This is a great place in a safe environment to allow your children to play.  For more information on Leapin’ Lizards, look for them on Facebook or here. 




We are still in the process of securing a regular meeting place for our group.  Please continue to follow us here or on Facebook for updated meeting information.  Our next scheduled meeting will be November 12, 2011, meeting place to be announced at a later date. 

We also had a chance to represent our group in our first community awareness outing.  Moody Air Force Base held a grand opening for their new Child Development Center and invited us to be present at a table with our information.  This was a great way for us to help get the word out in the community about our group.  We networked and presented our group information to many different agencies.  Please look for an updated post in the next week as we highlight what these groups have to offer the special needs community here in Valdosta and the South Georgia area.  Thank you to Emily Smith and Polly Chase for going out to Moody to sit at the booth. Another great big thanks to Emily for helping to coordinate our group being at this event and thank you to Moody Air Force Base for allowing us to participate


Our table that we had set up at the event.  307021_2459838498038_1314441907_32907175_1157398445_n[1]


Emily at the booth.  Her beautiful daughter Renee in the photo sitting in the chair.  Maggie is another one of our beautiful kiddos.  She is to the right of Renee in the photo.



Part of the playground at the Moody Child Development Center.305050_2459873458912_1314441907_32907284_1148036173_n[1]


Emily and her brother Parker trying out the playground equipment.


As we continue to move forward with our group, please continue to spread the word that we are here for our Down syndrome community.  We have many great ideas for the future of our group.  Thank you for your continued support.  As always, if we can do anything for you, please do not hesitate to contact us. 


Happy Down syndrome awareness month!  Spread the Ds love!