In March 2012, my grandson Liam was diagnosed at birth with Down Syndrome. He had a rough start, including open heart surgery at six weeks, pulmonary hypertension, 24-hour-a-day oxygen, and cleft lip surgery. Just one year ago this month, he stopped breathing and had to be airlifted to the children's hospital where he'd had his surgery. It was touch and go.
Now, thanks to the skill of many doctors, nurses, speech, occupational, and physical therapists--and the total love and devotion of two parents who think he's the absolute best--he is thriving. I just enjoyed a lovely visit via Skype with a bright-eyed, alert little fellow whose muscle tone has improved 200% since I last saw him on his birthday in March. He's scooting/crawling and into everything--but for the two hours we were on Skype, he was content to sit in his daddy's lap while his mother fed him supper.
The sky's the limit for our Liam. Not so for many other children so diagnosed. As a former special ed teacher, I've seen too many children labeled and their potential dismissed. Fortunately, his mother is trained in Montessori and already has him enrolled in a Montessori homeschooling program. He will never be shunted aside as 'different' and 'unworthy'.
Which brings me to the new series--The Dreamland Series. One of the pivotal characters is Danny, a young man with Down Syndrome who, like Liam, was loved and guided past the pitfalls of needing some extra time and help as he developed. Danny is a valued employee of the local supermarket in Dreamland, Arkansas. The customers love and appreciate him, and management keeps a protective eye on him. Lucky Danny.
As the series progresses, it is Danny who unobtrusively watches and listens. To many, he's invisible, but he never gives up. He knows what he knows and passes it on through the proper channels.
I've written characters with various disabilities, but Danny is close to my heart. Hopefully, I can give voice to all who struggle to become an integral part of society despite the labels hung on them for the convenience of others.
Some statistics state that up to 80% of babies diagnosed in utero with DS are never born. Liam's parents refused the testing and gave him life. Now he is filling theirs--and mine--with joy.