Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Living Disabled in Northwest Arkansas - an interview




Just thought I'd post this on the blog so I'll have a record of it. Sean and I were asked to answer some questions for an article being written about living with disabilities in Northwest Arkansas.

Interview with Julie:

1. Please give me a little background info about yourself (where you are from, where you went to
school, what you do now, etc.)
I'm a Fayetteville girl - I grew up here, went to FHS, then went "off to school" at John Brown University in Siloam Springs. I had a 10 year adventure in Texas, and now I'm back in Fayetteville - with the addition of a wonderful husband and 3 awesome daughters.

2. Please tell me about your daughter (name, age, interests, favorite places to go…I am not sure
how old she is, but she is welcome to give me a quote about herself to include in the article! )
Berkeley is our 3 year old. She loves being a big sister and a little sister, and gives lots of hugs and kisses to her sisters and to mommy and daddy, too! She loves dolls, dogs, pushing strollers, and yogurt! Her favorite song is Jesus Loves Me, for which she does sign language when we sing. She is a daddy's girl, and loves to be anywhere that he is. She has just recently learned to walk on her own, and this has quickly become her very favorite activity....she just walks! She walked 1/4 of the Gulley Park trail the other day! We are so proud of her. 
3. What disability is she diagnosed with? When did you find out she had a disability?
Berkeley has Down Syndrome. We found out at birth, although we knew beforehand that there was an increased chance of having a baby born with DS. 

4. What kind of schooling does your daughter receive (that is, if she is school aged… I’m not sure if
she is yet?)
Berkeley goes to the Children's Therapy Team several days a week, where she works hard at Physical, Occupational, and Speech therapy. She attends UBC's mother's day out program, where she is part of a "typical" classroom of children.

5. Could you please tell me about her therapy appointments (If you feel comfortable
recommending the name of the facility, that is fine. But you do not have to. Sean had
mentioned you take her to therapy appointments as well as do in-home therapy with her. I’d
appreciate any info regarding what she does in therapy).
Berkeley works so hard! She practices walking, climbing stairs, kneeling, and all kinds of things with her physical therapist. With her Occupational therapist she practices coloring, painting, keeping objects in their proper place (AKA NOT throwing them!). For speech therapy she practices flashcards, making sounds of letters and objects, choosing objects, answering yes/no questions, and communicating with words to get the things she needs and wants.
6. How long have you lived in northwest Arkansas?
8 months
7. Do you feel NWA has a lot to offer those living with disabilities? Any examples?
My husband, Sean, and I have both been impressed by what Arkansas (and Northwest Arkansas, in particular) has to offer for the special needs community. Berkeley has been able to receive much more therapy than before we moved here (from Texas), which has helped her progress by leaps and bounds! The community is very welcoming and accomodating to special needs, and all of the preschools, church nursery, and other childcare settings we've worked with have been loving and accepting - even eager - to work with Berkeley. It didn't take long at all for her to establish her "fan club" up here. ;)

8. As a parent of a disabled child, what is the best thing NWA has offered you and your family?
Wonderful therapists, good state-funded insurance and services. Mostly, though, loving friends, family, and community to come alongside us!
 
9. What is the biggest challenge you have faced in NWA in regards to having a disabled child?
   Not much to complain about! Maybe the cost of gas for transporting Berkeley to and from therapy so many times each week! Or, the endless paperwork that comes with getting special services...but of course you would have that anywhere. 

10. Are there any changes you would like to see made around this area that would make NWA more
disability-friendly?
Perhaps a part-time preschool program within Fayetteville city limits.
 
11. Do you have any advice for other parents living in the area who have disabled children? (for
example: a great activity their kids should be involved in, a fun place to go, or a great school to
attend)
 Probably the best advice I can give is to stay connected to other parents who are "in the same boat." It's hard to keep track of what to do and when to do it, so it helps to talk with other parents who've done it before. 

12. Are there any programs or social groups in the area that are encouraging to families with
disabled children? (Sean mentioned you organize play-dates for other special-needs children.
Could you please include some information about that here, as well?)
We are part of the Down Syndrome Connection of Northwest Arkansas, which has helped us meet several other families with children who have Down Syndrome. Also, I help to organize play dates for some of the kids with Down Syndrome. The kids enjoy playing, but it's probably more for us moms...it's good to talk with other people who know what you're talking about...there's a whole different vocabulary and set of experiences that go along with having a child with special needs.  Also, we have yet to attend one of these, but the 99 Balloons organization hosts a wonderful respite night called "Recess" for families of children with special needs.
 
13. **Any additional information is welcome and much appreciated! **
We feel very fortunate to have Berkeley and to get to experience life with a child who has Down Syndrome. She is a beautiful girl who delights us in so many ways! 

3 comments:

Us said...

That was sweet! Love you Berkeley!!! Oh...and you too Julie ;)

Donnae420 said...

Wonderful interview! Where will this be published?

Julie said...

Thanks, Jenn! Donna - I'm not sure when or where it will be published. I'm really looking forward to finding out, though!