To celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we’ve taken the opportunity to catch up with Alison, whose daughter Zoe attends Rowan.
Can you tell us about Zoe’s diagnosis?
I didn’t know about Zoe’s diagnosis until she was born, but I knew a lot about Down syndrome already, as I grew up with a cousin who also had Down syndrome. Zoe is my third child, so I knew she was different, but it was lovely and very positive.
How does Zoe’s diagnosis affect her life?
Zoe has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, so she is not typical – she is Zoe, she is very much her own person!
Zoe is vulnerable and can’t go out on her own at all as she doesn’t have a sufficient understanding of danger. But she is surrounded by lots of family members – her younger sister is especially tuned into her because she’s never known life without Zoe.
Her speech and social skills were very late to develop. It took a long time to get her autism diagnosis, but it was so helpful when we did. Her language continues to develop but it’s different. Funnily enough she’s blossomed during lockdown because the one-to-one support suited her!
What advice would you give to other people who have a loved one with Down syndrome?
There’s a lot of help and resources out there. I’ve never had any sort of negative feelings except for the worry about Zoe’s communication, but her autism diagnosis has made that a lot easier.
Try to give them as many rich experiences as possible, as you would with any child; play, interact, talk to your child, sing, look at picture books, spend time with other children.
What would you like people to know about Zoe?
Zoe loves music, singing, playing musical instruments, drama, being with her family, and going on walks with her dog, Archie. She likes going out for meals and to the cinema. Zoe is a very happy young lady, who enjoys the company of other people even if she finds communication quite hard at times.
What impact has Rowan had, on both Zoe and her family?
Zoe loves going to Rowan! She loves working alongside other people and she’s always very excited to go. She’s very musical – she has a great sense of rhythm, and she loves drama, painting and ceramics. All of these activities bring out the best in her. She loves the staff and atmosphere at Rowan, she’s very happy there.
I think Rowan is a very positive environment for her to be in. They really understand what’s important for her to develop her skills. We’re very happy with all that she’s offered there and get very helpful feedback from the team. Zoe doesn’t always tell us what she’s been doing, so the feedback from the staff is so helpful. We know Rowan is somewhere she’s very happy to go and that she’s having a positive social experience being part of the community. It’s so reassuring knowing she’s safe, secure and guided.
Image: Zoe pictured with her sister Eleanor