Stepping Stones DS – supporting parents of children with Down syndrome

My wife has put all the great and unique skills she learnt in the early years of raising our son to good use. She looks after a little girl with Down Syndrome two mornings a week at a local nursery. The little girls mum has put us in touch with a support group that operates in our area called Stepping Stones.

This charity recently ran a family day afternoon (entertainers, bouncy castles, donkey rides, picnic, etc.) at the Disability Challengers venue in Farnham. I took J and his sister along. I had no idea what to expect. But what I encountered was a vibrant and busy afternoon as family after family turned up. And everybody seemed to know other people there. Clearly a very effective support group indeed.

Stepping Stones DS was set up back in December 2006 as a coffee morning to support local parents who have children with Down Syndrome. From small beginnings its has grown to support nearly 70 families across Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey. I’d say a fair portion turned up last weekend.

The group now offers a range of support, services, activities and information to parents & carers of children with Down Syndrome, and professionals who are involved with their care and education.

Support groups are essential for sanity and to share triumphs and set-backs with others than understand your situation. In our early days we found our support group in the other parents in J’s Portage group. I think the social worker at the hospital at the time of J’s birth did give us the telephone number of a family who had a child with Down Syndrome to ring. But, whilst that might work for some, it wasn’t a route we felt comfortable with at the time. Besides, for the first month after J was born we were pretty much keeping a bedisde vigil in SCBU and not so much concerned with the diagnosis of Down Syndrome. By the time we got J home I’d pretty much accepted the situation and was looking more toward the practicalities of what it meant. Portage was our lifeline.

But is was clear from the buzz last weekend (and the very active emailing that goes on within the group) that Stepping Stones DS is effective at what it set out to do.

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