Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Friday Evening Fun

Last Friday evening, I was warmly welcomed by the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond. I was there to do a presentation on Virginia’s school assessment program for children with significant disabilities, but I joined everyone for dinner before the presentation.

So many things about the group impressed me. First, I was struck by how welcoming everyone was. Parents, who may be new to the world of Down Syndrome, or any disability for that matter, can really benefit from organizations such as this, but those parents are often reluctant to visit. I’ve been to group meetings myself where all the members have been friends for a long time, and as a newcomer, I felt uncomfortable – like I didn’t understand ‘the rules’. The difference between that type of organization and one like the Down Syndrome group is that new parents don’t experience those uncomfortable moments. They are made to feel part of the whole from the moment they step through the door. Those are the types of organizations who keep new parents coming back for more meetings.

Secondly, I really liked seeing parents and children together in the meeting. Families shared dinner and before that, children played and ran around the meeting room. It was like a very large family gathering. I don’t enjoy organization meetings where the children are handed off to childcare workers from the very beginning of the meeting. After dinner, and during the business part of the meeting, I understand childcare taking over. The children have more fun, and the adults can concentrate on learning and working together. But Friday night, families came together to catch up and watch their children at play. It was a lot of fun!

Finally, I was glad to see so many families with young children at the meeting. As I wrote earlier this month, new parents are often so overwhelmed with the major changes taking place in their families that they don’t join organizations. But here at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond, it appeared more parents of very young children were in attendance than families with older children. That is a very good sign for this organization and for the families that need support.

So, many thanks to the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond! I enjoyed spending Friday evening with each and every one of you, and I hope you learned from my presentation.

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