My name is Fiona Cohen and I gave birth to my first baby, a boy named Riley on 11th February, 2009. My husband Neil and I were told he had Down Syndrome an hour after his birth.
Our family and friends have been tremendous in their love and support as we learn to take care of our baby. I am a secondary PDHPE teacher and thought it was really important to introduce Riley to my students and explain his condition. I was anxious when I was introduced at assembly with Riley in my arms, but we were greeted with a loud applause and a huge Awhh!!!! for Riley. And so I began….
I came here today to introduce my son Riley, commonly referred to as Smiley Riley. He was born on the 11th of Februaryand he changed my life forever.
It was a typical pregnancy where Neil, my husband, and I would dream about our baby growing up, going to school, eventually moving out, getting married and the most important thing representing Australia at one of the many sports we had already chosen for him to play.
Upon the arrival of Riley, Neil and I were told he had Down Syndrome. At first, we were shocked and upset. It was hard to believe the words at first but with the love and support from our family and friends we began to accept it. Down Syndrome is a condition where instead of having two chromosome 21’s, the baby has three. This chromosome difference results in a learning delay and certain physical features. Ultimately though, Riley still has the genetic material and characteristics of Neil and I.
When my son Riley was diagnosed with Down Syndrome it felt like as though Neil and I had to go back to school. We were faced with ideas and concepts that were unfamiliar and daunting. I wasn’t sure at first if we wanted to go back to school and if we could pass all our lessons but we were going to try and Riley was going to lead the way.
Lesson 1: Medical Conditions
Children born with Down Syndrome are more likely to have a range of special health concerns including heart problems, vision and hearing problems, low muscle tone, feeding problems and the list goes on. So far we are passing with flying colours. Riley is a healthy 4 month old who is hearing and seeing the big wide world.
Lesson 2: Milestones
This lesson has taught Neil and I milestones are simply road signs along a road and that the goal is to reach the milestone, not reach them faster then anyone else. With each milestone Riley has reached, smiling, laughing, holding up his head, kicking his legs and arms, feeding properly and baby talk, highlights the fact that I think we are going to get an A in this lesson. It might just take a while to get there.
Lesson 3: Love
By far this is the best lesson Riley has taught us. When he smiles at us when he wakes up in the middle of the night, when he laughs at us for singing out of tune “the ants go marching one by one” or “galumph went the little green frog”. When he head butts us because he is trying so hard to keep his head up or when he talks to us when we hold him in our arms; that is love. This lesson has taught us about how wonderful the simple things in life are and that being different is ok.
Lesson 4: Goals
This lesson has been difficult. As parents you want the best for your kids and there are certain things you want them to achieve. It is comforting that Riley will learn to walk and talk, go to school, have friends, move out and most importantly represent Australia in soccer. He will be competing at the Paralympics instead. He will achieve these things in his own time and in his own way.
I have a feeling Neil and I will graduate from this school as we have a wonderful teacher in Riley. He will teach us things we would never have thought we needed to learn in his own special and unique way. Thank you
As I found the courage to look beyond the words that were written on the paper in front of me, I was greeted with huge smiles and applause. Only through education can we raise awareness and acceptance.
To donate go to www.dance4downsyndrome.com.au or register your child’s school or daycare in our Dance 4 Down Syndrome 2010 Dance-a-thon. We’re moving to make a difference!