This past weekend we went to Atlanta for the National Down syndrome conference. I just wanted to share a little bit about our weekend. We had an amazing time. We were able to meet a bunch of the families that I have met through the online listserv and they all were amazing. I have established some good friendships and that helps so much to have someone you can connect with that is walking in your shoes.
I went to two sessions...Oral Motor Therapy and Physical Therapy. I was a bit overwhelmed by both of them and shed a few tears in trying to figure out how I was going to offer Payton everything I want to offer her, without having the time, nor the money. I received a few pep talks and seem to be back on track. I have a place to start and I feel comfortable knowing that what we are doing, in addition to some new sensory therapy that we plan to begin, is satisfactory for her, I hope.
One of the biggest things that struck me was the sense of community that I felt. It was so nice to be somewhere that I didn't have to worry about people asking me why Payton sticks her tongue out sometimes, or get defensive about people staring at her because she has Down syndrome. The people at this conference adored her and they adored her for the beautiful little girl that she is. It was such a comforting feeling. We had adults and children with Down syndrome going crazy over her; and we had adults and children without Down syndrome going crazy over her. I can't say it enough that the whole general feeling of the conference was awesome. I don't know if the hotel staff had training prior to the conference, but they were more than accomodating to everyone. They were so nice and never did I see them staring at anyone oddly, or treating them differently. If anything, it was the exact opposite. If only "real life" were that way. It was so nice to be walking around and talking to random people who looked at you when they were talking to you, rather than trying to hide the fact that all they wanted to do was look at your child because she is "different". We never experienced that this weekend.
We obviously got to see the whole spectrum of Down syndrome...infants, children, adults. I feel as though when I'm out in public, it seems the people I see that have Down syndrome tend to be lower functioning. Not sure why, but I guess that is just my experience. That, to me, being the parent of a child with Down syndrome, is depressing. But at this conference, I saw teenagers and adults with Down syndrome that functioned as if they were "typical". I loved that. It gives us hope. There were several times when we would be walking along and be like, "Oh my gosh, did you see her? She was so cute! And so stylish!" LOL I know that might sound materialistic, but it was so nice to see that they CAN be that way too. And so many of them running around holding hands with their boyfriend/girlfriend...well it was just so sweet.
I honestly thank God for blessing us with Payton. We don't need or want anyone's pity. We have seen and now understand how blessed we are to have had our eyes opened to this whole other part of society that people know so little about.