KATRINA AND SAMUEL STAFFORD
“We were told that he could never learn and had to be trained.”
Three years ago Katrina Stafford’s life turned down a road that she and her husband Samuel weren’t prepared to travel and left them wondering which way to go. Katrina, a native of Northern Ireland, moved to the U.S. in 1999 and settled in Havertown. In 2003, the family, along with their son Isaac, moved to Newtown Square.
In August 2004, the Stafford’s son Alex was born with Down syndrome. His diagnosis caught them by surprise. Katrina had experienced a healthy pregnancy and had no reason to be concerned about her baby’s health.
“I was just in shock. I had absolutely no lead up to it. The pregnancy was so normal,” she said.
A few days after Alex was born, the Staffords met with a geneticist and soon were given a negative view of Alex’s future.
My husband said, ‘That may be the rule but Alex will be the exception’,” Katrina said.
When Alex was three weeks old, the Staffords attended a meeting of the Delaware County Down Syndrome Interest Group (DSIG) in Springfield. The DSIG is a non-profit organization formed to support parents and families of children with Down syndrome. The group’s goals are to reach out to new parents of children with Down syndrome and increase public awareness about Down syndrome.
“At my first meeting, I sat and cried for most of the time,” Katrina said.
Then she recalled seeing a one-year-old girl at the meeting, and kept thinking how beautiful and happy the little girl was and she had a bit of an awakening.
“Just to see that gorgeous and happy little girl was amazing. It just affirmed that things would be fine, maybe just a little different,” she said.
Like the Staffords, many parents of newborns with Down syndrome are not prepared. The joyful event they expected with child’s birth is sometimes shattered. Most have very little knowledge about Down syndrome.
DSIG members share personal experiences and triumphs. They reassure parents by telling them that their new baby will achieve and become a loved member of their family.
“I just really feel that Alex is not a burden. I feel as a group we have a wonderful opportunity to share that,” said Katrina. “I just don’t see Down syndrome as a problem. Alex is such a blessing,” Katrina said.