International Down's syndrome awareness week has just finished. This year is extra special as 2012 is the first year it has been officially recognised by the United Nations. The world over there have been parties, community gatherings and fundraising events -all celebrating the babies, children, teenagers and adults with Down's Syndrome.
March 21st (21/3) is chosen as the actual day of awareness to represent the 3 copies of chromosome 21 that is unique in people with Down's Syndrome.
The following video is a photo montage that was put together for the week of celebrations. Look carefully and you might spot Ella...
But lets not forget, it's not so long ago that a diagnosis of Down's syndrome or other disability meant a lifetime of social and physical neglect, banishment to institutions, exclusion and discrimination.
Slowly, the world has begun to change but there is still a long way to go.
I think this generation will be different. Children these days are exposed to others with special needs and disabilities from a much younger age, inclusion is thankfully now the norm. Look at Ella - she has mixed with her peers from 9 months of age when she started a mainstream nursery. She has thrived because of it and the nursery has embraced her and her needs just as they do with every child they care for. My hope is that Ella will remain in mainstream education so long as it remains the right place for her to be. My expectations for Ella are high, as they would be for any child.
I first met my wonderful friend Suzanne as we started secondary school aged 11. Her physical disability - arthrogryposis - meant that her parents had had to fight hard to enable her to attend mainstream school even though she is one of the brightest people I know. And this was during the last 20 years. Suzanne has taught me a lot about living a life that has daily challenges and has shown me that anything is possible, especially when you have supportive family and friends around you. I think knowing her has had a profound and positive effect on the way I dealt with finding out that Ella has Down's Syndrome.
Suzanne is now a much loved primary school teacher. The 4 year olds who pass through her classroom each year learn so much about people who are, for whatever reason, 'different' even if they don't realise it. They don't see Suzanne's disability, they just see Miss Cocks and that's the wonderful thing about children. It's also the wonderful thing about Miss Cocks!
The following is a poem written by Suzanne and used with her permission...
Suz and tiny Ella!
Thank you Suzanne x x
....a big, massive, huge thank you to my brother Tom who ran the Lisbon half marathon this weekend in aid of Ronald Macdonald House Charities. £480 raised so far and well done to your knee for doing it, even though the last 5 miles were hard. And thank you also to Graunty Ruthie and her colleagues for the £52.70 from the cake sale.
Ella is now crawling (but only backwards and not very far!). She's really chatty and clapping, waving and pointing lots!
Looking forward to a weekend in Wales with my family next weekend. Sure there will be pics and stories to tell next week....