Down syn­drome child changed life

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JOE DAWSON

When Ge­orge Wong was born al­most three years ago his mum and dad weren’t quite sure how to han­dle their new fam­ily mem­ber.

Ge­orge has Down syn­drome and pre­sented a new set of challenges for par­ents Sally Rayner and Ja­son Wong.

But with the help and sup­port of the Auck­land Down Syn­drome As­so­ci­a­tion and friends, they and their older son Fred, 4, have adapted to Ge­orge’s needs and are now excited about what the future holds for their boy.

They are urg­ing par­ents, whether their chil­dren have Down syn­drome or not, to par­tic­i­pate in next month’s Buddy Walk, which co­in­cides each year with World Down Syn­drome Day.

Miss Rayner says the walk is an op­por­tu­nity for any­one to learn more about the of­ten-mis­un­der­stood syn­drome. The Pt Che­va­lier res­i­dent wants to make the event a fix­ture on the fam­ily cal­en­dar. ‘‘Un­til you have a child with Down syn­drome or know some­body who does you don’t know about this great event,’’ she says.

‘‘When Ge­orge came along we heard about it and went and it was just in­cred­i­ble.

‘‘It’s been re­ally good for our friends to come and re­alise the po­ten­tial of these chil­dren, that ac­tu­ally they are smart, they can read, they can write, they can run around and do all the things other chil­dren can do – they just do it at a slower rate.

‘‘So it’s opened the eyes of lots of our friends and our­selves. That’s where I’m at, I just want to turn it into some­thing peo­ple just come to any­way.’’

While the day is for ev­ery­one Down syn­drome kids are the stars.

‘‘It’s re­ally to cel­e­brate the achieve­ments of Down syn­drome chil­dren and young adults.

‘‘The walk it­self is only 3.5km around the base of Mt Eden which is noth­ing re­ally but for par­ents of Down syn­drome chil­dren is big.

‘‘The achieve­ment of them walk­ing is just amaz­ing and you know you’ve put a bit of work into it, so to see 7 and 8-year-olds manag­ing to do that walk for the first time on their own is great.’’

Many young adults with Down syn­drome are in­volved in the or­gan­i­sa­tion and run­ning of the event so it is also a chance to see where the next gen­er­a­tion is headed, she says.

Mr Wong says noth­ing could have pre­pared him for life with a spe­cial needs child but the ex­pe­ri­ence has broad­ened his hori­zons.

‘‘I had no real ex­po­sure to chil­dren with spe­cial needs grow­ing up and I guess your world changes when you have one, so it opens up dif­fer­ent hori­zons and av­enues of knowl­edge and peer groups and com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘We see so much po­ten­tial in him now.’’

Photo: JOE DAWSON

Step­ping out: Ge­orge Wong with big brother Fred and mum Sally Rayner. The Pt Che­va­lier fam­ily will be at this year’s Buddy Walk.

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