Every age and stage of Down syndrome is a new journey. There are challenges, but there’s lots to celebrate – and ways for your child to socialize. October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, is a chance to revisit a strong local friend in this quest: the Down Syndrome Guild of Southeast Michigan.
“No one would wish for a child with a disability,” executive director Paulette Duggins says, “but there’s never been a better time” as far as support.
When it first started in 1989 in West Bloomfield as a support group, DSG had just 10 families, united in having kids with this chromosome disorder. Today, the Royal Oak nonprofit boasts 900 family members in nine counties, managing everything from prenatal diagnoses to Alzheimer’s for 250 special individuals of all ages. DSG also works closely with doctors for the latest research on Down syndrome.
Resources, education, awareness and support are at the guild’s core. That was key for Duggins, who joined 11 years ago. Her daughter, Molly, now 18, has Down syndrome. “This is not a death sentence,” the Bloomfield Hills mom quickly learned. About 30-35 new member parents also discover this each year.
It begins with tailored programs: for new/expectant parents, kids birth-age 5, the school years and into adulthood. The goal is putting a good education, future employment and independent living in reach.
Besides in-person support, social media ties now fill the daily gaps. And when it comes to old-fashioned kids fun, DSG’s social calendar is bustling.
Like the all-ages Club 21 with dancing, sports and pizza. Or exercise/stage series with Belightful Yoga and 4th Wall Theatre Company. And a holiday party and picnic. There’s even an annual Step Up for Down Syndrome walk. It’s all about fostering independence for kids – and adults (such as mom/dad nights out).
“We’re all special,” Duggins says. “What we want is for our kids and adults is to be accepted and integrated into the community, just like their typically developing peers.”