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