Category Archives: Down syndrome

Another amazing summer and the start to an exciting year.

For those of you who don’t know, I work at camp for children, youth and adults with Different Abilities. Belwood Lodge and Camp, is by far my most favourite place in the world. There is so much I could say about it but I won’t bore you with all of it. Just go check out the website and you can read all about it’s amazingness. I am honoured to say that Belwood has realistically changed my life immensely. Belwood helped me to confirm where and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and it’s taught me so much. Belwood provides and amazing vacation experience for some really great people who otherwise wouldn’t get one. I have met some of my best friends at Belwood and the relationships I’ve made there are unlike any other relationships I have. I am forever thankful for the experiences camp has given me. Now, the 2013 summer season has come to an end and it was a really great summer. I’m sad that it’s over, but the rest of this year is a super exciting one!

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I’ve completely re-done our local Special Olympics swim program (using a lot of the advice you guys gave me- thanks!) and I think it’s going to rock! I’ve gathered a group of coaches who seem really interested and excited about the program which is a HUGE plus. I have a lot of faith in my program and coaches and I think it’s going to be an amazing swim season. I really think our athletes are going to love it.

I’ll also be coaching the Guelph Giants again, my super awesome Special Hockey International team. That’s super exciting. SHI is an amazing organization and I’m so thankful to be involved with it. You can read all about how I feel about SHI here.

I am continuing with my DSW studies this fall and should be done in May. This is also exciting.

All in all, it’s going to be great year.

Reflections.

It’s been just over two years since I travelled to Nicaragua. That’s nice and scary. It’s weird to think about all of the different things that have changed since then and the decisions I’ve made.

But, what I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately is, the Blue Bird House in Nicaragua. I haven’t really shared to much about it as it was quite an overwhelming experience. Since it’s been just over two years, I’ve decided to share some more about it.

The Blue Bird House is a group home of sorts. It’s more of an institution. Visiting the Blue Bird House while I was in Nicaragua was something that was very important to me. Obviously, I’m very connected to the Special Needs community and I really wanted to see what it’s like in a less fortunate country.

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Honestly, I was worried.

I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve read so much about orphanages and institutions  that I was really worried about what I was going to see. I was (pleasantly) surprised. Now, the conditions of the Blue Bird House were nothing compared to something you’d see in Canada, but they also were much better than the conditions I was expecting. They were extremely understaffed and their ratios were nothing like something you’d see here,  we’re talking a good 1:14 ratio including some individuals who were very high needs. These ratios can make it extremely difficult to adapt programming and attention.

I just love this guy.

I just love this guy.

The Blue Bird house supports individuals of all ages, starting as children all the way through to adulthood. The Blue Bird house supports people of all abilities. When I visited, most of the younger children were in school which is very uplifting. That’s not often something you see.

The individuals with Higher Needs had an area catered to their specific needs

The individuals with Higher Needs had an area catered to their specific needs

The staff who worked at the Blue Bird house really seemed to have a passion for what they were doing which is absolutely amazing. They really seemed to care about the people they were supporting.

The Blue Bird was very interesting. They had daily programming as well as an ARC Industries type area where they would make different items to sell in art shows or at markets. They also had a kitchen where they would bake and sell goods. The inclusion that we saw was so cool!

"ARC" like area

“ARC” like area

There were different sections to the property. A main area, including a dining area, a gym type centre for PT and a section for the individuals they support who require a high level of care. There was then a female building that had multiple beds in one section and then a large area with tables for meals and daily activities. Across the grounds there was another similar building but for males. Between these buildings there was an outside area that had playground equipment and benches. The design of the place was very forward and open which was so nice to see. There were some parts of the Blue Bird house that were really hard to see, as much as the conditions were much better than I expected, they were still rough. I strive to provide the best that I can for the people I support and I found it very difficult to be in an area were there was just so much that I wanted to do, but couldn’t.

PT area

PT area

 

A wheelchair in Nicaragua..

A wheelchair in Nicaragua..

 

A kind young man having some swing time on the grounds

A kind young man having some swing time on the grounds

I had the chance to interact with many of the individuals who lived at the Blue Bird house and man, they rocked!

This guy was hilarious.

This guy was hilarious.

Visiting the Blue Bird house was a major highlight for me and I’m so glad I got that experience.

I was also blessed with the opportunity to give the Blue Bird house a collection of new clothing protectors and provide a large amount of the people they support with Camp shirts. The group that I went with, Kn.e.c.t, also gave the Blue Bird house a monetary gift. What an awesome experience. This is a place I really want to go back and visit.

Donations

Donations

I will be posting more pictures of the Blue Bird house over on the Stories from the Sandbox Facebook Page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stories-from-the-Sandbox/252057948257316

Dolls representing people with Down syndrome

Dolls for people with Down syndrome, or “Dolls for Downs” is a pretty cool organization that makes dolls that resemble the features of people with Down syndrome. This movement was started by the mother of a girl, Hannah, who has Down syndrome. She wanted a doll that looked like her. These dolls can be very empowering for people with Down syndrome. There are different dolls available for order, featuring different, hair, skin and eye colour as well as different genders. There is an option when ordering the doll to have the doll feature a scar on the chest, to resemble the scar that many individuals with Down syndrome have after receiving heart surgery at a young age.  There are also different accessories available for purchase such as; glasses, hearing aids and eventually AFO’s.

I am a little partial to one specific doll, Aziza. Aziza was a little girl with Down syndrome from Toronto, ON who I learned about through her mom’s blog. I’d been following her story for a few months because she was adopted by her family and I am very interested in adopting those with Down syndrome. Sadly, Earlier this year Aziza passed away. Dolls for Downs created a doll in her honour featuring her appearance. I think this is an amazing and beautiful way to commemorate Aziza and her journey.

There is some backlash in regards to these dolls, there are some people who believe that these dolls portray a negative stereotype; all people with Down syndrome look the same and all have the same features. Personally, I LOVE these dolls. I think that they show people with differences that not every doll needs to be “typical” and that anybody is “doll-worthy”. Yes, the dolls highlight the main physical features of people with down syndrome. But, I think these dolls show to the world that it is perfectly okay to have Down syndrome. Different is not less.

Read a Toronto Star article about Dolls for Downs: http://www.thestar.com/life/parent/2013/04/16/dolls_with_down_syndrome_prove_

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Read about Aziza: http://mylittlewarriorprincess.blogspot.ca

Visit the Dolls for Downs website: http://www.dollsfordowns.org/index.html

Picture of the dolls from: http://www.dollsfordowns.org/index.html