Our Amazing Reality….#LukesAmazingReality During Down syndrome Awareness Month

Soren I. Richardson works as a Parent Training Coordinator for our PEN, Parent Education Network Project. During Down syndrome Awareness Month, Soren shares her amazing reality as the mother of Luke, a beautiful 6 years old who happens to have Down syndrome and is with no doubt a wonderful gift for his family and community.

Our son Luke is 6 years old and he happens to have down syndrome. We had a prenatal diagnosis around 12-14 weeks of my pregnancy.  It was unexpected yet the news didn’t change our excitement awaiting our loved baby.

Luke was born at full term via a c-section and he was all perfection. He was the calmest, content, and adorable baby I have ever met…and he was all mine. He was smiling and giggling at 2 weeks old and melting everyone’s hearts.

We decided from the moment he was born that Down syndrome was not going to define who he is but he will define what Down syndrome will mean in his life. Most importantly we want him to be happy, healthy, and live the life he wants. We want him to be an integral part of his community, have meaningful friendships, and be accepted for who he is.  When he is all grown up we want him to have a career he chooses, be a contributing member of society, and live an independent and meaningful life. He is already a hard worker during his weekly six therapy sessions so we expect him to have the same work ethic as he continues to grow.

With this goal in mind, we made sure for him to be included in different activities in our local community. From simple regular trips to the grocery stores to attending toddlers’ gym classes. He was always around typical kids. At the same time, he attended various activities with the Down syndrome community as well as music classes through our local Early Steps. At 1 year old he started swimming lessons and hasn’t stopped swimming since then. He has also attended music classes since a baby and now is learning to play the piano and truly enjoys it.

We try to expose him to different sports. He played soccer for one season with our local club. Even though this wasn’t his favorite sport he enjoyed being part of the team and eating snacks on the bench with his teammates. Luke also loves to ride his bike which he learned to ride independently during the pandemic shut down in 2020. The next goal is riding his bike without the training wheels.

As a family, we do visit our local farms annually for blueberry, strawberry, and peach season. Luke has been going since he was a baby in a carrier and is now a professional at picking the right fruit. This is one of our favorite family outings. We live very close to the theme parks in Orlando, therefore he has been a regular visitor and loves interacting with the characters.

One of our goals is to expose him to different activities and places and have experienced just like any other typical kid. Luke loves being a helper in the kitchen and is often helping make breakfast or baking a cake. Horseback riding is one of his favorite sports. He is always in the best mood when he goes to ride his favorite horse Image.

This kid loves every holiday, especially Halloween. He dresses up for Halloween every year and goes trick or treating with his friends in the neighborhood. Now he is at an age where he can decide for himself what costume he wants to wear. As a family, we advocate for inclusion and awareness for the special needs community whenever we can. We volunteer as much as we can and we participate at the Down syndrome walk in Orlando every year. The first year we participated Luke was the Grand Marshall of the walk.

Luke absolutely loves school. He started school when he was 2 years old. He attended CECO (conductive education) and when he was 2 he attended the PreK at the neighborhood school. At school, we always advocated for inclusion and also brought awareness to down syndrome and the special needs community. Every year we would plan an activity with the school. One year the school wore blue and yellow and the second year we donated books about Down syndrome to the school library and organized a book reading for all the PreK classes.

When it came time for Luke to attend VPK, we chose for him to attend a fully inclusive school. He was the only student with a disability in the class. He thrived and rose to the occasion and showed us that he can be in a general education classroom with some support and compassion.

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