In 2018, I wrote the story Pigeons coo hoo hoo. I wanted to get this book published to give to parents of young children with Down syndrome and other neuro diverse children. However this story can be enjoyed by any parent and child. My idea was put on hold as my mother developed terminal cancer and I needed to take time out to care for her. Sadly, both my parents passed away last year.
I'm now determined to complete this project not only in their memory, but for my daughter and many other families with a child born with Down syndrome and other neuro diversity.
As a parent of a 12 year old daughter with Down syndrome, I'm well aware of the importance of early speech interventions, developing the child's cognition and emotional understanding. In the early days, we received no speech therapy support for our daughter, but being proactive parents, we were determined to find a way and ended up travelling to Israel to an incredible institute that believed my daughter had potential for an amazing life.
From that point on, whilst we were told throughout my pregnancy and at her birth she would never walk or talk, we have always believed in her ability to become independent. She's defied everything that was spoken about her and is now a lively young girl who loves life.
Alice and I in Jerusalem, Israel
I travelled around Europe to train and equip myself in the programme to finally bring it back to the UK and set up a charity, Breakthrough Learning. The charity was set up to develop children's cognition to help them become independent thinkers and learners.
However, in my previous work life, I worked as a Pregnancy Crisis counsellor. I know from my own experiences, the importance of a new mother being able to talk through her pregnancy options to enable her to make an informed choice. This rarely happens.
This is an extract from the charity, Positive Against Down Syndrome (PADS):
On 6 July, The Down syndrome community, friends, family and supporters are being asked to show their support for PADS Patron Heidi Crowter & Aidan (via mum Máire) - as they go to the High Court to challenge the antiquated legislation that allows termination to term (until the baby's head engages in the birth canal) on the grounds of baby having Down syndrome.
For too long discrimination has prevailed in maternity care unchallenged. The charity, Positive about Down Syndrome PADS see and hear from expectant and new parents on an almost daily basis about the negative impact of this archaic law - the assumption to terminate, the undermining of women's decisions and negative attitude towards Down syndrome.
A woman has the right to terminate any pregnancy up to 24 weeks. However, if the baby has Down syndrome the baby is not protected by law beyond 24 weeks. There is no medical reason why a woman should ever be offered a termination purely because of baby having Down syndrome - her life is not endangered and (ironically when clearly it is) baby's life is not in danger.
Will you hold hands with us for #Equality?
The 6 July is a monumental day and I want to do something Positive!
The recent press release from Don't Screen Us out mention on their webpage:
A Down Syndrome Bill is to be introduced to Westminster by Dr Liam Fox MP in the next Parliamentary session later this year.
If successful, it will lead to the establishment of a Down Syndrome Act and a national strategy to improve provision and outcomes for all those living with Down syndrome in the UK.
The Autism Act which became law in 2009 preceded the establishment of the national strategy to help meet the needs of adults with autistic spectrum conditions in England.
The Down Syndrome Act will go further, identifying needs in all areas, for all individuals with Down syndrome across the whole of the UK. This will encompass, amongst other areas, maternity care, education, health, social care and employment.
These are potentially life changing times for the Down syndrome community.
Will you help me?
I want to do something that will support parents as they start their journey by giving them some 'tools' in the form of a book.
Why a book?
Everyone loves to read a book and children love to listen to stories. It is a simple formula, not onerous and brings a parent and child together to enjoy a journey into an imaginary world. As a parent of a neuro diverse child, I know that you are asked to read and assimilate so much information about a child’s diagnosis or their developmental stages. Often, this is just too much, when you’re exhausted by the daily challenges of being a parent.
I want to raise money to have this short story illustrated and published for parents to start reading with their babies from birth. There is so much evidence to show the impact of the parent and child interaction which can affect a child’s outcomes. By giving focussed attention and reading the story, the parent would model the early speech sounds. It’s not a manual, but a fun story with all the early sounds to allow for repetition and for the baby to copy these movements. Speech therapy support is a rare commodity now so who better than a parent to start this process! The book, 'Pigeons coo hoo hoo' is a fun flying adventure of shrieks and tweets that every parent will enjoy reading to their child.
In addition, the child would be introduced to emotions and feelings. During Covid, people have needed to wear masks over their faces which have prevented children from recognising facial expressions, which is needed for understanding emotions. The bird sounds provide a fun way of connecting these two concepts, speech and emotions. A recent article in the Guardian explained the importance of bird song through the Covid lockdown. My hope is that parents would also take some time out for themselves to enjoy the outdoors and listen to the sound of birds for their own mental well-being.
I am fortunate to have connected with a wonderful illustrator, who is developing some beautiful images for the book.
The book will have a guide for parents about the early speech sounds, how to introduce emotions to young children and a short guide on some different birds that they can look out for on their daily outings.
My dream is for a new parent to receive a copy of this book, so please help me to get this project started by donating to this page.
Thank you to everyone for making this possible!