June 5, 2016

The Responsiblity of Being in the “Special Needs Parent Club”- A Graduation Speech


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This Down syndrome blog post is my graduation speech from The Pilot Parents of Southern Arizona’s Partners in Leadership course on the responsibility of being in the special needs parent club. They asked us to write on what we learned and what we have accomplished since attending their program. This course is a 6 month-long class devoted to educating special needs parents and self advocates on disability laws, resources and strategies in order to affect change. If you are interested in seeing if your state has a similar course, click here.

I first heard about Partners in Leadership when I was in a weird phase of my life. I was drowning as a new mom of two under two, I had no friends because we had just moved to Tucson (three weeks before our son was born) and to be honest, I was still adjusting to Anderson’s Down syndrome diagnosis.

In an attempt to make friends just 2 months after moving and only several weeks postpartum, we had another Down syndrome family over for dinner—who quickly told us they were moving to another state. I thought I was going to cry right there.

But—the mom, Jamie, also started talking about a course she was in—Partners in Leadership—and asked if I wanted her to nominate me for the course and I said yes. I didn’t know how I was going to do this with having no family around to take care of my kids for an entire day—but I knew I needed to figure it out. It was time to stop just going through the motions of our new special needs parents status and start educating ourselves for the road ahead. 

Joining Partners made me realize I am capable of doing more—more for my family and more for the world around me. Being part of this “special needs parent club” comes with a responsibility—to know how to have our kid’s backs, to have each other’s backs and to leave the club in a better place from when we first received our membership.

Since joining Partners, I have become the Communications Director for the Down syndrome Diagnosis Networkan organization devoted to an accurate an unbiased diagnosis experiences as well as a support system for new parents. Since taking this role I have been a part of a team that has helped grow our social media numbers by the hundreds and have had two news outlets cover stories on our efforts. I have also created press releases and pitches to cover an injustice happening right here in our classroom—helping garner multiple TV stories and raise awareness about the plight our kids still sometimes face in 2016.

Partners had a part in these accomplishments by helping me realize the leadership strengths I possess and how to use these strengths to make actual change.

Partners has educated me on how to be a more effective parent and a more effective member of this special club we are apart of. By knowing my child’s rights and resources available to him, I’m able to help educate other parents through the many online communities I am a part of, the new leadership role I am in and through my blog.

Thank you Partners for the education—an education in laws, resources and strategies, an education in self-discovery, advocacy and empathy. And thanks for reminding me that one person can be apart of changing the world.

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