March 15, 2014
I can’t believe I wrote my first blog post one year ago. I have written about many different things over the past year, all pertaining to the goings-on in my little life. Most posts, however not intended, end with a sense of humor to it (in my life you HAVE to have a sense of humor); some made you weep and one was frightening. But today’s post falls under ‘heartfelt and touching.’
Let me back up a bit. Jenni has always been a quiet, shy child. She has always been happy, too. She went to school from the time she was 4 weeks old, straight through until she was 21 years old. She has very limited verbal skills but is vocal in other ways. And she understands everything.
When we moved to Vegas 18 years ago, I took her to a party that the Down Syndrome Organization Of Southern Nevada (DSOSN) held. It was at Peter Piper’s Pizza (like Chuck E. Cheese but it had rides). I get along with everyone and if you know me, you know this. Almost instantly, I had parents questioning me as to why I was sending my child to ‘THAT’ school, where she was currently enrolled in. After the grilling I felt I had taken at the Peter Piper Party with the group, I stopped going to anything they sponsored. Jenni was attending the greatest school that she had ever been at in her life. It is a school that is for the special needs child. She was in an environment that suited her needs and she blossomed. She swam twice a week- year round, worked in the garden, saw farm animals that they had on campus in a little barn area, attended girl scouts and had sleep overs with the scouts at the school, had dances, proms, celebrated all sorts of holiday parties, went on many community based field trips and she loved it. The staff never seemed to leave/transfer from the school to move on. They stayed put and were wonderful teachers. Jenni wasn’t ‘mainstreamed’ into regular education classes because this was a school specifically where her needs could be met. (She’d been mainstreamed in California and suffered unnecessary cruelty for quite a while. Not just her, all of her classmates). While at Helen J. Stewart here in Las Vegas, most of the kids she attended school with, that were in her classes over the years had Down syndrome, like herself. I never pointed out to her that “Hey Jenni, you have Down’s!”, but if the opportunity came up, I would say something like “Look, she is special like you, and he/she just happens to have Down syndrome.” She doesn’t communicate verbally so she could never respond but she’d smile and I assumed that it registered in her mind.
I attended a few more of the funcions at the DSOSN throughout the years- always giving them a second chance, but I always felt like an outcast and I always had the same questions and comments …”Why isn’t she at her local high school? Why isn’t she in a day program?” (when she left school at 21.) They would all tell me what their children did at this school or that school. It was true: their children were much more higher functioning intellectually than Jenni and they could handle regular education middle school and high school campuses. I was happy for them but I was so turned off by their attitudes. I finally stopped going to any functions.
As most of you know, Jenni loves music and I play songs on My Kindle for her. Since I began going to Zumba classes last year, I had no idea what the songs were called that were played in class. Especially Tuesday’s group. I decided I would figure it out on my own and boy what an undertaking that became! I went on to every Zumba web site, every Latin work-out web site and went months and months without any recognition remotely close to the songs I heard in class. Then one day months ago, I hit on one. And then I kept following links to another set of artists and I hit pay dirt! So now Jenni and I dance around to the music I hear from Tuesday’s Zumba class. She loves it. Last Tuesday I brought her to class. I knew she wouldn’t get up and dance, that’s not her style, but I know my child and I knew she would love the music….as long as it wasn’t blaring. Tuesday’s classes are much more tolerable volume wise and I was sure with cotton balls in her ears, she’d be fine. (Unfortunately the first song came on blasting for a few seconds and that got her a little tense, but the volume was fixed and she mellowed out.) She stood for a bit, then I dragged a chair over for her where she promptly settled into and she truly had a good time from her perch. One of the gals in class (Cathy) that I see each week- but never knew personally, showed me a picture on her phone of her brother David, who also has Down’s. She said he was involved with a great group of adults who have Down syndrome and it was through the DSOSN. She told me her mother was very involved in the group and she told me she’d get information for me. I spoke to Cathy’s mom, Sara the same night and I explained my negative experiences with the DSOSN over the years. After talking to Sara, I am brining Jenni to a bar-b-que on Wednesday night. It sounds like such a nice group of people and I think Jenni could blossom once more. Don’t get me wrong, she is a happy go lucky young lady but if she could have some outlet for socialization and enjoyed it, Dennis and I would be thrilled. I had recently made Jenni a facebook page that I obviously write and add pictures to, and Jenni and David became friends, along with Cathy and Sara (as well as myself). I have been talking to Jenni about this upcoming Wednesday’s night-out event and showing her pictures from the DSOSN’s web site. I have showed her pictures of David and let her hold my Kindle to look at the pictures.
So yesterday, I saw pictures that Sara uploaded of David and his friend Matthew at lunch (beautiful pictures I might add). Jenni was upstairs watching a movie so I brought my Kindle up there and sat on the bed next to her. I showed her the pictures of David and she smiled. This may not sound like a big deal, but I show her pictures all the time that I shoot. Just your typical pictures: of her nephews Carter and Max, or of the dog, or of herself, etc…. and most times she has no interest at all.
Now here I am, sitting next to her, showing her these photos and she is smiling. I told her that she was going to be meeting these nice people on Wednesday night and that she was going to have a good time, when all of a sudden (almost like E.T. as in the extraterrestrial) she looks towards and slowly points up above her closet doors to a framed picture of herself when she was a homecoming princess back in school. She then turned and looked at me, still smiling and nodded. I needed a Kleenex right about then. To me, I felt that she was telling me that they were like her. It was as if she correlates the pictures she saw of David and Matthew to her memories of a happier time? I was getting choked up because this is SO not Jenni.
Now, on to the next adventure with Jenni. I am hoping this is a new journey in her life!