Meet Charlie. He's only five, but he's already a three-year cancer survivor. Charlie was born with Down Syndrome and Transient myeloproliferative disorder, which transitioned into leukemia when he was 16 months old. When other babies were experiencing crucial brain, physical, and social development, Charlie was undergoing high-dose chemotherapy, long-term hospitalization, and isolation. As a result, Charlie experienced physical regression and delays in his motor skills.
Imagine being in a classroom where the instruction is given in a completely different language than the one you regularly speak. How frustrating would that be? How lonely? How difficult to stay on task? This is how it can feel for students with disabilities in a traditional classroom setting. Enter Allegro Foundation. Allegro developed a unique curriculum based on years of research that uses movement to reinforce learning concepts, allowing students to feel what is being learned and commit it to muscle memory.
“How do you connect with a mom when you’re feeling like, ‘I'm upset about having a baby like yours?’” she asked me. “Good point,” I thought to myself, and Shana Filkins continued to reflect on her first days after receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis for her daughter in utero. Five years ago Shana knew only one family who had a child with Down syndrome, and for two long months she contemplated and rehearsed the call she knew she needed to make to them.
“It was devastating to me. I was 38 when I got pregnant. It was a dream come true - truly blissful because it took a long time to get pregnant and after receiving the Down syndrome diagnosis, I was ashamed and felt alone, ‘How could I be thinking this’ I thought to myself, ‘after wanting a baby for so long?’”
A special needs diagnosis is a life-changing moment that signals a long but rewarding road of challenges and victories alike. Brian Wulf knows this all too well. As the father of two sons who live with rare disorders and multiple disabilities, Brian has chosen to dedicate the rest of his life to sharing the deep things he has learned as a dad to special needs children, as well as encourage, empower and help others through life challenges that are often overwhelming and confusing. As the Executive Director of Empowering Hands for Life, he is able to do just that.
The story of Taylor Gamwell – love and acceptance for all God’s children – is the story of UMAR.
UMAR was founded in 1983 to serve adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities in 11 western N.C. counties. The Charlotte-based nonprofit served 325 adults in 2019 through its 22 group homes and other residential services, job training, three arts centers and more.
Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “goodbye” are known as developmental milestones for children. And while all children develop at their own pace and it is impossible to predict the exact ages certain skills should develop, milestones serve to give parents and guardians a general idea if a child is developing at an average rate alongside their peers. When these milestones are continuously not being met, signs begin to point to a developmental disability (CDC).
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