Caleb was a surprise all the way around. When we found out we were expecting a baby in the fall of 2006, our daughter was already looking at colleges, and we were making travel plans (the proverbial trip to Italy!). Surprise! Our trip indeed, became a "road to Holland" when we not only had to figure out life with a new baby, but also life with Down syndrome.
Looking Down the Road
The first years flew by - filled with therapists and specialists, making plans, discovering new friends and our other travel companions on this unique road. We were (are) thankful that Caleb is quite healthy, despite his having heart issues and hypothyroidism. Early Intervention turned into pre-K, and we had another road to figure out. Fast forward to today. Caleb is now 10 - bridging the gap between child and adult. He's grown tremendously this year, and so have we. We've really had to narrow our focus in order to start looking further down the road...to really dig deep, and begin exploring what his adult life might look like. I'm a planner by nature, always looking ahead. Having a child with a disability forces your hand a bit in that respect. Things take planning to work out successfully, for the most part.
Treasure Each Day
This is not to say we don't enjoy our lives! One of the best things Caleb has brought to our living is the gift of treasuring each day....of living life to the fullest. He loves his life! He has friends, he has activities (boy, does he!), he likes his school and sports and family. He has taught us joy, and he's taught us patience (times two!). He's expanded our vision of the world, to include others that we may have missed earlier. He brings color to our living; excitement and certainly, love. He loves unconditionally, the best lesson he's taught us.
As not only a parent, but someone who has worked in the disability field now for most of his life, people often ask me for advice. What should their child's behavior be like? What road should they take for school? How do they find resources? How can they encourage their child? All my best answers come from our experiences with Caleb, and those wonderful lessons he's taught us. My advice? Your child is his or her own person, with their own unique qualities. What are their strengths? How can you build them up? What tools do you have in place to help them grow; to feel nurtured; to have their own version of success? It looks differently for each one of us, whether we have a disability or not. As a parent, that's what our ultimate role is. As Caleb's Head of School says so frequently when asked about her vision for our students..."give them the knowledge and the tools to be the best versions of themselves."
Follow our lives with Caleb: @karenjp0915