When a Flight Attendant Realized How a Dog's Yips Affected My Son

466
466

Our flight to Florida was a full one. My 10-year-old son Wil, who has Down syndrome, was sandwiched between his 11-year-old twin sisters, Katherine and Elizabeth, in a three-seater row. I sat in the same row just across the aisle from them. We had made it through the first two hours of the flight without incident. With only one hour to go, a tiny dog started to yip. It happened to be in the row directly in front of my kids.

Wil is sensitive to noise, especially high-pitched noises. I asked Elizabeth to take Wil’s noise protector headphones out of his carry-on bag. She was able to find his headphones quickly, but he was already in such an agitated state that they did not calm him down as they typically do.

After some shuffling, I was able to help Wil from his seat and pull him to mine across the aisle.

Almost immediately, a flight attendant was standing by my seat, blocking Wil’s view from the still yipping dog. The flight attendant handed Wil a packet of pretzels, then discreetly showed me the snack size Milky Way bar she was holding (in nonverbal fashion of asking my permission). I nodded yes.

“Here, Wil,” she said. “This is what you do. Take a bite of pretzel, then a bite of chocolate. It’s the best.”

Wil was immediately intrigued by this and calmed down. The flight attendant continued to stand there, blocking Wil’s view of the dog that just would not shut up already! I asked the flight attendant’s name, and she said it was Marcie. I thanked her for her kindness. She stayed and chatted with Wil, asking how old he was, what was his teacher’s name and what he liked to do for fun. Though the high-strung dog never stopped its banter, Wil (with headphones still on) was now freely answering Marcie’s questions with only a few sideways glances in the dog’s direction.

Our plane’s descent was soon to come, and I knew Wil would need to return to his seat. Thanks to Marcie’s kindness and two extra Milky Ways (“for later,” she said with a wink), Wil returned to his seat between his two sisters without fear. Katherine and Elizabeth also received compliments and Milky Way bars from Marcie for being wonderful sisters.

The dog owners never apologized. Maybe they were embarrassed or maybe they figured it was not their problem. I don’t know and never will. Yet without their dog, Katherine, Elizabeth, Wil and I would never have known Marcie. For the first two hours of our flight, she was a friendly flight attendant. Her smiles, as welcoming as they were, would have no reason to stay in our minds. The dog incident is what prompted me to ask Marcie’s name so I could thank her personally for her forthcoming kindness.

Thankfully Marcie attached herself to this memorable flight, turning it into a very good one, indeed.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

466
466
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Reflections on Turning 40 as the Mother of a Child With Down Syndrome

10
10

Knock! Knock!

Who’s there?

40!

40, who?

This isn’t a joke, people. I’m about to turn 40. Like, in a few weeks.

20170308_132922

Somebody pass the chocolate. The dark kind, because I hear that’s the best for your health. I guess I have to worry about that stuff now.

When I was younger, I dreamed of being older. Now that I’m older, I dream of being younger. Kids might do that to you. They change you. Throw in a diagnosis of Down syndrome and you might find yourself never wanting to leave this earth. That’s where I find myself, afraid of aging.

20170308_133858

I was 30 when I started having kids. My oldest child is about to turn 10. My middle child is 8. Then there’s Willow. She is 3 1/2 years old. She’s the one who makes me want to ignore my upcoming birthday. She’s the one who makes me wonder what would happen if I left before her.

Right now, the news headlines seem scary. Really scary. I have no idea what the future looks like for disabled individuals like my daughter. As a former news journalist, I try to stay informed, but I’ve also learned it’s not healthy for me to get too caught up in the drama of the day as it just causes undo stress. And, if it’s true that stress can take years off your life, I want no part of it. With such uncertainty in the horizon, I want to be here for my kids, especially Willow.

KIMG0578

While turning off the tube can spare me some stress, I’m unfortunately unable to avoid it in other areas of life. I try, but boy, I swear it’s impossible sometimes.

Over the past several years my family has adopted the motto, “Be comfortable with the uncomfortable.” That’s meant a new job for my husband, a new home in a new town, and a bunch of new challenges in life. Overall, we’re comfortable, but when you add unexpected things into the equation like sickness or a dead car, stress pops up. I shudder to think how many years I’ve lost because of worrying about things like a simple sneeze.

Stress isn’t the only thing that ails me. I feel my age. My knees ache, and I’m tired all the time. I have a strong desire to take care of myself, exercise even, but time is my enemy. I guess you could say “self-care” isn’t easy for me. I hear that’s common for parents of children with disabilities. It’s also the middle of winter and freezing cold where I live, meaning getting outside to walk or jog is near impossible this time of year.

Even with desire and time on my side, a 20 below wind chill keeps me inside. The ironic part is I had a nurse tell me the other day I had “great health.” According to a recent blood test my numbers all look good, my good cholesterol, my bad cholesterol, my blood sugar, etc. At least I’ve got something going for me. So, why am I so worried about turning 40?

Willow needs me to be young. She needs me to keep moving. She keeps a busy schedule between her therapies and school and various appointments. She needs me there to teach her things. She needs me there to guide her. She needs me to advocate for her until the world recognizes she has a voice of her own.

Not only do I want to stay youthful, I want to stay alive. Plain and simple. As a Christian, I’m taught not to fear death, and really, I don’t. I look forward to heaven. But, there are days when I feel frozen with the thought of what I might be leaving behind. What happens if my husband and I go before Willow? My husband, by the way, is even older than me.

20170308_133020

I’d love to think that Willow will be independent enough to live on her own someday, but I have no idea. I’d love to think that if Willow weren’t able to live on her own one of her older siblings would take her in, but I have no idea. I’d love it if I didn’t have to think about this, but that would mean Willow dying before me. And, well — I just can’t.

Good golly, I don’t like that I’m turning 40.

As much as I try to ignore it, my old age is coming. The signs are all around me, even in the most unexpected places. OK, maybe the gray hairs aren’t so unexpected. I am raising three kids. But, even my e-mail mocks me. Just this week, I got an invitation to join AARP, an advertisement for a seniors only cell phone service and an offer for 65 percent off that popular little blue pill. I’ll have you know I did not respond to any of those offers.

Forty is coming whether I like it or not. So, today I will live. And I will love. Because as I mentioned earlier, kids can change you and mine have taught me how to do both of those things. And, Willow? She also taught me how to dance and how to smile. Everyday, no matter what. Wouldn’t you know, both of those things have proven health benefits and could quite possibly add years to my life.

Willowdance

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

10
10
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

John Cronin, Man With Down Syndrome, Creates Sock Company John's Crazy Socks

148
148

John Lee Cronin, a 21-year-old with Down syndrome, started John’s Crazy Socks, an online sock store with his dad, Mark Cronin.

Read the full story.

Read the full transcript:

This man with down syndrome turned his passion for socks into his own company.

John Lee Cronin, 21, is the cofounder of John’s Crazy Socks.

His dad helps run the technical parts of the website, but says that john is the face of the business.

“[John] came up with the name and participates in discussions on issues such as which awareness socks to create.” -Mark Cronin, father

“There is no ‘make work’ for john. He has real responsibilities and works hard every day.”

John speaks with customers and suppliers, assembles packages and delivers local orders.

Since launching in December 2016, they have sold over 1,000 pairs of socks.

Each package includes a handwritten thank you note from John and candy.

“Our mission it to spread happiness through socks. Giving back is part of our spreading happiness.”

A portion of profits go to the Special Olympics as well as autism and Down syndrome nonprofits.

To learn more, visit johnscrazysocks.com.

148
148
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Mélanie Ségard Will Be France's First Weather Woman With Down Syndrome

8k
8k

Mélanie Ségard has always dreamed of being a weather woman on TV. On Monday, the 21-year-old Frenchwoman, who has Down syndrome, posted a video on Facebook asking people to like her Facebook page with the hopes of attracting the eye of her local news channel.

“I’m different, but I want to show everyone that I can do a lot of things,” Ségard wrote on her page. “I want to prove it by presenting on TV.” Less than a week later, her video has been watched almost three million times and more than 189,000 people have liked her Facebook page.

“Today, people with a disability are invisible,” a spokesperson for the National Union of Charities for Parents with Disabled Children (UNAPEI), said in a statement. UNAPEI has helped Ségard coordinate her campaign. “The 100,000 likes are a sign of strong support – we are taken aback at how quickly the page became a success.”

So far, Ségard’s campaign is working. She’s caught the attention of BFMTV and France 2 – two French news channels – both of whom have invited her on air to present the weather on March 27. This would make Ségard the France’s first weatherperson with Down syndrome, according to The Telegraph.

In January 2016, two Special Olympics athletes became the first reporters with Down syndrome to work at Denver7 News, an ABC affiliate in the U.S. Hanna Atkinson, 21, from Littleton, Colorado, and Connor Long, also 21, from Louisville, Colorado, conducted interviews and hosted segments on the athletes, coaches, volunteers and families of Special Olympics Colorado. They worked in the studio with anchor Eric Kahnert and out in the field with a production team.

8k
8k
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

A Request About Raising Awareness, From the Mom of a Child With Down Syndrome

2k
2k

I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about the best ways of raising awareness and spreading positive messages about Down syndrome, and how I and other members of the Down syndrome community are working so hard at achieving a better society for our children. I’m trying to share my son River’s story and show the world through the internet that there is nothing to fear. I want to show that life with our child with Down syndrome is amazing, and I feel that I am slowly starting to achieve a small part of that.

I’ve joined groups on Facebook specifically for parents of children with Down syndrome, and I can’t even express how beneficial this has been for me. Living in Tanzania can be a lonely experience, as I am the only mother of a young child with special needs that I know. Now I’m not saying I’m a lonely person, as I’m not. I have great friends and an amazing husband, but it can be isolating when there is nobody to talk to who is experiencing the same things. I’ve “met” great people through these groups, and the support I’ve gotten from the Down syndrome community is priceless.

What I have noticed through these groups, though, is the different ways people deal with those who have no experience with Down syndrome. There have been a lot of discussions about people in society making uneducated comments and being criticized for what’s seen as being ignorant and rude. I’m starting to feel that our actions as parents of children with special needs can actually make or break our quest for an inclusive society.

For example, I’ve heard a story about a parent who saw a woman at the supermarket staring at her child, so she stared back at her until she turned away, seeming embarrassed. I’ve heard another story about a parent responding with anger to someone asking if her child was “slow.” But what did this achieve? Did it help the child or the Down syndrome community? In my opinion, reacting with anger helps nobody at all.

Why assume that the lady was staring at in a negative way? I love watching the world go by. Maybe she was curious or maybe she was learning, and that can be a good thing. Maybe she has a relative with Down syndrome or a child with Down syndrome. Maybe she is watching and thinking about what a fantastic parent the mom is.

Asking if a child is “slow” is obviously a bad choice of words, and yes, I would have felt the need to respond and correct. But if that person probably meant no harm, I believe it is better to respond calmly with the purpose of educating.

In my opinion, don’t assume the worst in people — assume the best. It can make life a whole lot easier and enjoyable. I wrote a piece recently about how much I hate people assuming that our life is hard, and how nobody has the right to assume anything about my family without knowing us. Well, that works both ways. We also don’t have the right to assume what other people are thinking. I promised myself when River was diagnosed that I would always talk openly and honestly about him having Down syndrome. I would welcome any questions and answer with my head held high and a smile on my face. I would always be so very proud of him and want to show him off to the world!

We have the opportunity to help make a positive change within society, to help educate people and make the world a more inclusive place. The last thing we need is to make people feel afraid to approach us or ask questions. We say we want our children to be accepted for who they are, but how is that possible if we don’t give people the opportunity to learn? I want to teach my son to let these things go and not let them affect his life or the person he is. I want him to understand that sometimes people say silly things, but that is nothing for us to feel bad about, as we can easily put them straight without aggression. Just by talking to them and showing them our reality. I don’t want negative reactions to have any power or influence over the happiness of my son.

How I react to strangers is what my children will see, and it’s what they will learn from. If I react with anger and get upset, this might be how my babies will grow up reacting. I believe strongly that I have a duty to educate others about Down syndrome, to help people understand the joy my son brings to our family and that our lives are “normal.” We wouldn’t change a thing, and certainly wouldn’t change our children. Life is good, Down syndrome included.

Of course, we all want to protect our children, and I would fight for my boys with every breath I have. I just think there are other ways to do that than fighting, ways that might achieve so much more. I’m not saying that if somebody said something purposefully spiteful or hurtful to my son I wouldn’t defend him; there is no doubt I would. But I genuinely do believe the majority of people in public mean no harm and just might not know the right things to say. We were all uneducated once. I know now that a child has Down syndrome and isn’t Down syndrome. I know now how important people-first language is. I know now to never assume that there are things people with Down syndrome can’t do. I know these things now because Down syndrome is a part of my life, a very much welcomed part of my life. I have the best little teacher in the world in my son. He has taught me more than I ever thought possible.

As members of the Down syndrome community and parents of wonderful children, let’s use our knowledge and experience. Let’s welcome questions and softly correct people when they choose the wrong words or make ignorant assumptions. Let’s walk away from people knowing we have done everything within our power to open their minds, educate them and spread positivity.

Mom with two sons, looking at sons and smiling

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

2k
2k
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Kayleigh Williamson Is the First Person With Down Syndrome to Finish the Austin Half Marathon

347
347

Kayleigh Williams is the first person with down syndrome to complete the Austin Half Marathon, a 13.1 mile run.

Full video transcript:

Kayleigh Williamson Is the First Person With Down Syndrome to Finish the Austin Half Marathon.

Williamson, 26, finished the 13.1 Mile race in just over six hours.

In addition to running, she’s participated in local and state Special Olympics events for the past 14 years.

She’s competed in cycling, tennis, track, discus, bowling, basketball and swimming events.

Williamson has completed many 5k races, an 8k and the run for the water 10 miler.

For this race, williamson ran with an emotional support dog and Britney Spears playing on her iPhone.

30,000 steps later, she completed the marathon and got her medal.

Way to go, Kayleigh.

347
347
TOPICS
Video,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

6,300
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.