“Down syndrome (also called Trisomy 21) occurs when a person is born with a third copy of the twenty-first chromosome. That’s it. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? This extra chromosome is responsible for some of the characteristics that are common amount people with Down syndrome, including low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a flat nasal bridge. In addition, people with Trisomy 21 have an increased risk for certain medical conditions, including thyroid conditions, congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, and Alzheimer’s disease. These characteristics appear to varying degrees, sometimes not at all. It’s extremely important to note that every person with Down syndrome is a unique individual. Most babies and young children require early intervention in the form of occupational therapy (to strengthen fine-motor and eating skills), physical therapy (to strengthen gross-motor skills), and speech therapy.
Most of humanity reads such a list and concludes that Down syndrome is a bad thing, as I was tempted to do when considering whether to adopt our first child. It’s not ‘normal,’ it’s not familiar; it’s uncomfortable. This conclusion is most often made by those who have limited or no connection to an actual living, breathing person with Down syndrome. This is a problem. In my experience, those who take the time to develop such relationships quickly realize that Down syndrome is nothing to be afraid of. Many individuals who have Down syndrome are attending and graduating from college, living independently, and pursuing full-time careers. People with Trisomy 21 and those of us who love them are speaking up more and more about their beauty, abilities, and personhood.” -Heather Avis, The Lucky Few publishing March 21, 2017.
Many things converged recently so that I, too, get the privilege of speaking up for the beauty, ability, and personhood of people with Down syndrome, and I know without a single doubt it’s not by chance.
The past few years, I’ve been purposely following a handful of families on Instagram who show their audiences a beautiful, raw, real picture of what growing up with Down syndrome looks like. As someone who doesn’t have much experience with Down syndrome, I felt a very real whisper from God to understand his heart and his absolute love and adoration for his creation, specifically people born with Down syndrome.
It’s taken me over a week to write this post without just sounding like a creepy creeper right now. I’m still not sure I am achieving that goal. I just can’t seem to find the right words to tell you I asked God to make me love people I wasn’t loving very well because of fear, and God said let me show you something I am so proud of.
And here I am: reading an advanced reading copy of The Lucky Few by Heather Avis all about her and her husband’s journey through infertility and being lead to adopt three amazing kids, two of whom were born with Down syndrome when I get an invitation from a friend to visit Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome achievement center, located in Indianapolis.
All these related-but-not-related things coming in at one time, and I knew God was telling me to use the resources He’s given me to help show off His beautiful children.
So a few weeks ago, I got to spend the evening with a Little Fingers, Big Plans class at Gigi’s Playhouse. The group meets once a week to help smaller children with Down syndrome develop early handwriting skills. Many kids born with Trisomy 21 lack fine motor skills so this class helps them practice gripping, maneuvering, and controlling their fingers and hands so they can be more successful at writing and coloring as they get older. The teachers and volunteers in the class were full of creative ideas that helped the kids get work done in the framework of play and fun. As an educator, it was so great to see kids learning needed skills in the form or hands-on play and art. For any kid, that’s the best way to learn, and the amazing kids I got to witness were so happy and engaged with their activities.
I loved getting to learn about Gigi’s Playhouse and all they’re doing to support the Down syndrome community in Indiana. Gigi’s is a nationwide network of learning centers focusing on educating and equipping people with Down syndrome and their families to be the best and most successful versions of themselves. The resources Gigi’s Playhouse offers to families are free of charge which is such a blessing to families already paying for endless doctor’s appointments, therapies, and programs.
For families in Indiana, Gigi’s Playhouse is it. They’ve only been around for a few years but have already outgrown their physical space, are filling their class rosters, and impacting lives throughout the state. Some families travel hours to attend classes and receive support from the Indianapolis location. Every parent wants to connect with people in the same season of life as them and when you’re parenting a child with Down syndrome there are so many unknowns. Finding people in the same boat as you is absolutely life giving. Gigi’s Playhouse does that for over 300 families in central Indiana.
To keep growing and to reach more families, they need our help. Whether you’re a local or you live on the other side of the world, I’d love to partner with you to encourage and support Gigi’s Playhouse with our resources. Can you help me spread the word about Gigi’s Playhouse? Can you help support them?
There are many ways to get involved:
-Send them something off their Amazon Wishlist! You know you’re probably buying something on Prime today; spend a few dollars more and take care of a need the school has. Make sure you check out the categories on the left side–there are many things on each list.
–Support them with a one-time gift. How about $21 as a one-time donation? Skip dinner out one night this week and help Gigi’s take care of a family.
-Host a supply drive with your friends, scout group, church, or club. Just like any educational classroom, Gigi’s Playhouse has lots of school-related needs and are always accepting more supplies to better serve their families.
-If you’re local, they could use more volunteers!
-Plan on joining them this fall for their annual 3.21 run or one mile walk. This event takes place Saturday, September 9th in Carmel, Indiana and I would love to have you join me as we support the amazing families of Gigi’s Playhouse.
-Schedule a recurring monthly donation to support classes, resources, and families at Gigi’s Playhouse.
You can also check out their website for more ideas.
Sometimes I struggle with my platform and the responsibility that comes with this space and influence I’ve been given. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I make a wrong choice and others follow my lead? Sometimes I am frozen with the weight of my responsibility.
But right now, I’m not. I get to share about something bigger than me, something bigger than this space, and support others who are working hard to level an un-level playing field. There’s no question about my voice right now–I get the pleasure to introduce you to Gigi’s Playhouse and what they’re doing for families in Indiana, and I am honored with that privilege.
DISCLOSURE: THIS IS A SPONSORED POST BUT ALL OPINIONS ARE MINE.