Today you can make DOUBLE THE IMPACT to the wonderful families we support.
Every £1 you donate before 23rd August will be doubled. You can help to #DoubleThePotential.
Today, as a Stepping Stones DS parent, I’d like to open my heart and share my personal story with you.
Why? Because I want to encourage and inspire you to make a gift to this wonderful charity – a gift that will be DOUBLED if you donate before 23rd August.
Thanks to a wonderful, matched giving offer from one of our supporters, every £1 you donate to Stepping Stones before 23rd August will be doubled. You can make a difference and #DoubleThePotential
Our Down syndrome story
We joined Stepping Stones DS just before our baby Morris was born. Morris is now 16 months old.
Here's our story:
“The sobbing started in the car park. I sat for 30 minutes, gut heaving sobs tearing through me, rivers of tears flowing down my face. I tried to call my best friend and explain I needed help, but I couldn’t get the words out. I was about to face my future – my soon to be reality and it was scaring the living hell out of me. I was seven months pregnant and having a Down syndrome diagnosis for my child was not supposed to be part of the plan.
This was the very beginning of my journey with Stepping Stones DS, having been made aware of their presence by my midwife following our diagnosis in pregnancy.
I eventually plucked up the courage to get out of the car and walk towards the building where Stepping Stones DS was holding one of its monthly stay and play sessions. As I knocked on the door, I felt my life slow down.
I dread to think what I looked like, but Sarah walked out, closed the door behind her, took me by the shoulders and simply said ‘cry – let it out’. The relief at being ‘allowed’ to release my emotions set me off again as I began rambling my feelings out to her, surprising myself by what I found myself saying.
But having that reassuring, confident, friendly, and somehow firm personality was what I needed. The validation that it was ok to feel the way I did was so releasing. It felt like a burden of guilt had been lifted from my shoulders.
Having spoken to Sarah since that first meeting I have found out that she does this often with new parents, and it brings such comfort knowing that I wasn’t alone in having felt like this. After being assured I wouldn’t offend the parents in the hall (I was afraid my tears and upset would cause offence and seem rude to the parents and their little ones) I took a step inside. experience where she worked as a teaching assistant with children with special needs.
Meeting the family of families made me feel safe
What did I see when I walked in? Initially I didn’t see the dozen, or so small people sitting down, being held, rolling on the floor or running around with each other and their siblings.
Instead, I saw a group of mums and dads with a cup of coffee, scooting to make space for me to join them. The smiles, welcomes and simple introductions quickly put me at ease.
These people, whom I had never met, accepted me fully and understood where I was right now. Nobody pushed me for information, they waited for me to share as much of my story as I felt comfortable. They shared their experiences, allowed me to ask questions. Whilst no two stories were the same, emotions were similar.
They made me feel safe.
Going along to Stepping Stones DS’ Stay and Play session before Morris arrived was the start of my journey towards emotionally healing. It’s a long journey, but every step on it counts.
Knowing that I wasn’t alone, meeting these parents and volunteers and being able to freely express my fears for what was upcoming in my life helped me so much.
Seeing families who had undergone tough situations, navigating difficult journeys, and yet showing me the strength and resilience, and perhaps more importantly that life continues, smiles are still formed, and the world keeps on turning. I went to another session the following month and being able to walk in (unaided!) and recognise faces showed me a huge turnaround had occurred.
Stepping Stones DS has been a constant in our lives since Morris arrived
So what exactly does Stepping Stones do for us, as parents to a 16 month old?
First and foremost, it has provided us with a local community of parents, a ready-made support team. We have had constant support and advice from each other, whether that is who we need to contact for a specific appointment, to discussing travel insurance policies, right down to what cutlery we are using to wean our little ones.
Parenting a child with Down Syndrome is simply parenting first. The Down Syndrome is an added extra. We can speak and ask questions to parents of older children if we are facing challenges or looking for some guidance from those who have already experienced it.
We also have the amazing face to face Early Development Groups which help us to work on activities focusing on Morris’ speech and language development, his cognitive understanding, his gross and fine motor skills. These are invaluable as our monthly sessions give us daily focus on working these skills.
It's not just the parents and child with Down syndrome that benefit - there is a focus on the wider family.
However, it’s not just the parents and child with Down Syndrome that benefit from Stepping Stones – there is a focus on the wider family.
Siblings and grandparents/other family members, as well as anybody involved in the care of a child with Down Syndrome are welcomed and supported too. This is apparent in the annual family picnic, where the family are invited to attend and have a day of fun, of much needed respite around those who ‘get it’.
The stay and play sessions I mentioned at the start of this are open to other family members too. My Mum and my Mother-in-Law have both attended these and both have commented on how welcome they were made to feel. It’s a great opportunity also to get some sneaky cuddles in with other babies! And wait for the annual Christmas pantomime – great for spreading the festive cheer!
Thanks to Stepping Stones DS, I am not walking this journey alone.
I hope you do not mind me sharing my story. It has been a painful journey and I know there will be challenges ahead. However, thanks to Stepping Stones DS, I am not walking this journey alone.
Whenever I need a bit of support I can honestly say that I do not feel alone. A message to the parents WhatsApp Group can give me the strength I need to allow myself to feel this way, to accept this is experienced by many. But most importantly to know that I will get through this and am not alone. This is what Stepping Stones DS has brought to us.”
Every £1 you donate (up to £8,000) to Stepping Stones DS before 23rd August will be doubled. Today, you have the power to help transform a family’s life. A family just like mine. And what’s more, any gift you give to our #DoubleThePotential campaign will be DOUBLED.
It’s your amazing support that helps a child with Down syndrome thrive at school and be included alongside their peers. It’s your kindness that helps a young person find work, enjoy a full and active life, and even go on to live independently. It’s your generosity that shows our children, young people, and families the amazing potential their child has.
Thank you from all our families for helping children and young people with Down syndrome become all they were meant to be.
Charlotte, Paul, Fearne & Morris
PS. As a small, local charity you can be assured that every £ Stepping Stones DS receives is put to great use to impact the lives of children, young people and families. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this happen.