So one never can be sure of what the future holds…with anything. I think as parents we have this vision of what the future may look like for our child…hangin’ with friends, getting good grades in school, being an athlete, a princess, a world changer. We already have it all mapped out for them and they are still tucked safely in the womb. Even though it is all unknown territory, throwing an extra chromosome in the mix can sometimes make it seem even scarier. One the reasons I started Ruby’s Rainbow is because I wanted a sneak peek into that future…and I have never been more inspired. It was selfish really, as I wanted to see what adults “rockin’ it”, like my own daughter were achieving. What were they capable of??
It is certainly a different day and age for people with Down syndrome now then it was 20 years ago, so I was curious and asked some of our recipient’s families to share how they felt when they heard the words “Down syndrome” for the first time…and how they feel now that they have a college student. Some of them start off with “I felt sad and guilty”, “it turned our whole world upside down,” “Fear, disappointment and overwhelmed.” But you know how they all end? Kelsie Layman’s dad would tell you that a picture is worth a thousand words…..
Over 100 students who attend Union University in Tennessee with Kelsie threw her a birthday party…and I would say she is living her dream. Her dad reports that she “is growing, academically, emotionally, socially and spiritually in ways that we would have never dreamed about 25 years ago.”
Paige Soderman is attending the Western Carolina University UP Program. Her mom remembers “when the pediatrician came into the room after Paige was born and said “she may be able to work at McDonald’s at some point”. Well you can just imagine how angry that made us. We feel at this stage if Paige was given a small opportunity she would surprise many. If we ever try to hold her back the slightest she gives us the evil eye.”
I know that eye…I get it from Ruby all the time when I try to reign her in a little. Her determination is a force to be reckoned with and I think it will do her well throughout her lifetime.
Alex Goodman is attending Georgia Tech and her dad, David, had this to say: “
When Alexandria was born, it turned our whole world upside down. We knew because of Paula’s pregnancy blood work triple check,that we had an increased chance of having a child with DS but didn’t opt to have an amniocentesis because of the increased risk of spontaneous abortion and the fact we would accept whatever God gave us. Still, we were expecting another healthy, happy, 46 chromosome child, like her older sister. We were scared, saddened, withdrawn and felt that the dream of the “perfect child” had been shattered at the moment of her birth. We were encouraged by loving family, friends, and a wonderful Pediatrician. The fact that she was physically healthy, with no heart problems, was also encouraging. Yet despite this encouragement, we had an overall feeling of depression which haunted us for the her first year. As time went on, her loving and funny personality, her intelligence and determination, and her maturation filled us with unmeasurable happiness, satisfaction and joy. We struggled along the way, as all parents do with their perceived child’s failures, but mostly relished in her accomplishments. As Alex graduated high school and began a transitional program, we worried about “what next?” The college oppurtunity was an exciting yet daunting thought. We were confident in Alex’s abilities but still were unsure she could handle the personal, social and academic responsibilities of a real college experience. So far she has embraced her college experience and far exceeded our expectations. She is living in a dorm/apartment situation with roommates who all seem to get along. She has successfully navigated the campus, in a busy intercity environment. She has successfully and responsibly completed her college class assignments on time and has seeked help when appropriate. She cooks, works out and has found many social activities to become involved with on campus. We are so proud of her, and even though it sometimes breaks our heart when she tells us she would rather stay on campus at her apartment, then come home for the weekend, we realize that this is part of her continued maturation and her the love of her college experience.”
I simply cannot imagine the day Ruby flies the coop. I really can’t…and I know she won’t look back.
Jan, Charli Webre’s mom has been having a hard time letting her spread her wings, although she is thriving at the University of Louisiana.
“January 25,1992 my daughter Charli Webre was born . I knew as soon as I saw her face that she had Down’s Syndrome. I was overwhelmed with so many emotions all at once, so many questions in my head. “What will she be able to do?” The question that I should have been thinking was “What won’t she be able to do?”
Charli amazes me just about every day, I ask myself how much more can she achieve, how much more is she capable of, how many more stars can she reach? One of my biggest issues is having to tell her no you can’t do that. She is soooo trying to spread her wings and fly, I am having a hard time letting her do this. It’s 23 1/2 years later and I still don’t have an answer. Charli is in her 3rd semester of college and is thoroughly enjoying the experience. She is very active and very socially oriented. She is truly amazing, and we are so blessed that she is ours.”
Cheryl Conklin shared this: ”When Scott was born, they told me at the hospital that I probably shouldn’t try to breast feed him and someone said, he probably would never walk (don’t remember who). Mine and my husband’s attitude were that he was our child and we were going to treat him the same as any other child. We had a speech therapist for him from about age 1 till age 32 and did all that we could to encourage him. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that he would go to college. Now I have every hope in the world that he will one day live on his own. He definitely wants to succeed. He just loves college and living in an apartment.”
Scott is now thriving at UNCG Beyond Academics Program, alongside another Rockin’ Recipient, Taryn Stinson. Her mom says that they are constantly amazed by all Taryn has accomplished so far and how she continues to grow every day.
Jared Okun’s mom had this to say:
“About a year ago, Jared and I were driving somewhere talking about what he would like to do for a job someday. At the time, Jared had started a blog, to, in his words, help parents who just had a baby with Down Syndrome. I turned to him at that point, and said, “Jared, if I had met and talked to YOU on the day you were born, I would have been ok!” We both teared up as I realized how true that statement was. I think Jared got it too! Over the years, he has amazed us with his accomplishments! He is thriving in college! When he calls home, it is a confident and happy young man with whom I speak!”
All these stories are part of what drives me to do what we do. I want the world to know about the “Jared’s” and the “Taryn’s” and know that it will be ok….know that people with Down syndrome are oozing awesomeness. They are capable. Just like my Ruby Doobs.
I hear story after story like these…and I am here to share .Heck, I am living my own story with my own awesome lil’ lady!!! I am here to inspire you through these wonderful, amazing, capable faces…and watch them all be“world changers.” Sounds like just what the doctor ordered.