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Gifts : Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives

The Gifts Outreach program provides complimentary copies of Gifts to organizations which serve parents facing a new diagnosis of Down syndrome for their child, either prenatally or postnatally. We believe that the stories in the book provide a vital companionship and support for such parents.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Brotherly Love

Source: Jul 10, 2007
Brotherly Love
By Meredith Cummings Pulse Editor

When Kayla Terry was about 4 years old, her mother, Teri, showed her a video. The video explained, in very simple terms, what it means to have Down syndrome, like her older brother, Ian. Her mother asked, "Now do you see how Ian is like the children in that video?" Kayla answered, "They both have bad haircuts?"

Thus began Kayla's funny, heartwarming lifelong journey with Ian, who is almost exactly one year older than her.

Kayla has put those experiences into a book, "An Every Day Inspiration: The Authorized Biography of Ian Terry," a project that started as an English class assignment at Tuscaloosa Academy. It has made the rounds in Tuscaloosa , and has even gotten into the hands of former University of Alabama head football coach Gene Stallings and country music superstar LeeAnn Rimes.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the book and looking at all the pictures," Stallings said. "It was a wonderful book."

The succe ss has taken Kayla by surprise.

"At first, it started out as a grade," Kayla said. "Something I had to do. My mom really encouraged me to become more involved with it," she said. "I wanted it to be important to Ian, but I didn't realize that it would inspire other people."

The book has served as inspiration for other parents of children with Down syndrome.

Siblings of special needs people are often special and unique themselves.

Kayla was one of the first students without special needs to enroll in RISE School to experiment the concept of "reverse mainstreaming," in hopes that she would blossom into a thriving child with leadership qualities and high character.

Her mother said Kayla's experience with RISE has proved that theory to be correct.

From sharing birthdays together to Halloween, the book details the adventures, ups and downs of the Terry family, which also includes another, younger brother, Stuart, and father, Johnny.
"I feel like I put a lot of effort into it," Kayla said. "When it started going around and people started giving me compliments on it, then I was like, 'Hey I did a pretty good job.'"

Photos in the book include the siblings dressed as Batman, Bat Girl and Robin for Halloween to, a picture of Ian dressed like Elvis Presley and a picture of Ian interviewing Stallings at a RISE golf tournament this year.

"And what an outstanding job he did when he interviewed me at the golf tournament," Stallings said.

Kayla's mother said that growing up, Kayla took a "willing backseat role" to Ian, not because she and her husband wanted it that way, but because she chose to put herself in the caretaker role.

"The story of Ian's life so far is a tribute not only to his family and friends, but the community as well," Teri Terry said. "Living in Tuscaloosa has certainly opened doors and been beneficial to him. He has been lucky to have been accepted and supported by so many. I do not think any other community embraces the special needs community like Tuscaloosa ."

Stallings agreed. "In some places, I'm sure, that's not always the case," he said. "I'm extremely proud of what Teri and her family have been able to do. The RISE program is a beautiful facility for the youngsters in Tuscaloosa. If you have a child with special needs, Tuscaloosa is a great place to be."

Teri Terry said that anyone with a child with Down syndrome could look to Kayla's story as inspiration to have more children.

"I forget he has special needs," Kayla said. "There were situations when he got a little bit older with bullies and stuff. But kids don't know how to act around people who are different. I took on a big sister role and he took on the little brother role instead of the other way around."

Kayla's book says it best: "Alone, Ian may have been hesitant to explore or try new things, but with his sister at his side, he could do an ything."

Kayla said that those early years, the two were joined at the hip, and were, and still are, best friends.

"Before Stuart was born, we went everywhere together," Kayla said. "I can't go that long without hanging out with him because I miss him a lot."

Ian has gotten the writing bug from his older sister, and said he now wants to write a book of his own.

"He thinks he is such a star," Kayla said smiling.

Jessica Robertson, Kayla's English teacher, said she enjoyed the book. The assignment, she said, was for the students to choose someone they admire to write about.

Robertson said she read the book before she ever met Ian.

"I enjoyed meeting him and I felt like I knew him," Robertson said. "The book was not only about him, but about their family and the struggle with having a special child. It seems like they have been so supportive."

Kayla was on the staff of the TA student newspaper, Knightwriter, as well as the yearbook, Excalibur. The book, she said, took her the entire school year to complete.

In the fall, Ian will attend Crossing Point at the University of Alabama, a program that teaches job and life skills. So while the siblings will see each other, it won't be quite the same.

"I had to let him go," Kayla said. "I can't always protect him. It's scary to think about."

Then she paused before adding, "But he can do OK on his own."

Reach Meredith Cummings at meredith.cummings@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0227.

3 comments:

Tammy and Parker said...

I loved reading this. Thanks so much for posting it Jan. I'm gonna try and print it out too to share.

Tara Marie said...

This is wonderful....

Sara said...

do you know where you can get the book ?