October is Down Syndrome Awareness month. The Down Syndrome of the Brazos Valley is stepping up to promote acceptance and awareness. In operation since 2003, Executive Director, Christy Knight did not anticipate the organization would be so powerful a decade later. In fact, Knight didn't anticipate that she would even stand alive and well today.
Loretta Bachmeyer and her son, Hayden
Knight gave birth to her son Colton on a weekend, so her regular doctor was not available. Regardless, she and her husband were shocked how this doctor braced them with news that would change their lives forever.
"A doctor walked in and said, 'your baby has Down Syndrome,' and walked out," said Knight. “We didn't know what Down Syndrome was."
After giving birth to Colton, Knight soon learned she had pancreatic cancer and said doctors only gave her a few months to live. While battling chemo and raising a baby, Knight started the Down Syndrome Association of Brazos Valley so parents wouldn't have to endure what she went through when she first heard the news.
"Now when a baby is born with Down Syndrome, we are the first line and we take up a new parent packet," said Knight.
The organization helps parents like Loretta Bachmeyer. Bachmeyer has a son named Hayden, 11. In addition to utilizing the organization's strong support system of other parents, Bachmeyer said Hayden is doing extremely well in school, partly thanks to the interactive programs offered through the Down Syndrome of the Brazos Valley.
“Hayden does a reading math and speech class throughout the year and that helps in the summer just so he doesn't lose the information during the summer,” said Bachmeyer.
Bachmeyer said Hayden is able to enjoy the same activities as other kid. “He’s played challenger soccer he’s played challenger baseball,” said Bachmeyer. Hayden also enjoys basketball, fishing and has recently taken up hunting.
Bachmeyer and her husband had two other children after Hayden, both without Down Syndrome. She said all her kids love one another and interact just like normal siblings do.
News 3 followed Bachmeyer and Hayden, along with her two other children from school. Bachmeyer went through Hayden's grades with him, giving him several high fives and encouraging words.
“In reading you got an 80, in writing a 98,” Bachmeyer smiled. "Are you ready to show daddy?"
She said she expects the same out of Hayden as she does her other children and believes that's why he continues to excel.
"I hold Hayden accountable just like all the other kids," said Bachmeyer.
Knight said her high standards instill confidence in her son Colton, as well as the kids she teaches. "We do lots of visuals, we do lots of hands on, we don't just do lectures," Knight explained. "We don't use the word 'I can't,' it's I'm going to do it, it's just going to take us a little longer."
Knight said the ultimate goal is to steer kids towards living what we all consider to be a normal life. "To be able to go out, get a job, get married," said Knight.
Through the organization, kids in the same age groups get together each month for social activities, such as going to the movies.
Knight said the Down Syndrome Association of Brazos Valley will offer computer classes for kids starting this spring.