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Happiness wears a cheesy grin

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When you adopt a child with special needs some people doubt either your sanity, or think that you have suddenly sprouted a halo!

Our extended family were concerned that taking a child with a disability like Down's Syndrome into our home would impact unfavourably on our three daughters. However, we felt that our family unit was one which could absorb and benefit such a child. Naturally we discussed it with our three birth daughters, and would not have gone ahead if they had been against the idea. They said, “Go for it!”

As a result, my husband and I took possession of a 13-month-old bundle of baby boy in April 1986. Any doubts soon melted away as J-P lost no time in finding a special place in all our hearts. Our own three birth daughters were 16, 12 and 10 at the time: they adored their little brother who fitted into our family immediately. The girls took pleasure in stimulating J-P, and by 19 months old he was walking, which is quite early for a Down’s baby. J-P had been born in London, to young parents of Greek/Cypriot origin. The shock of having a Down’s Syndrome baby was too much for them, and they immediately put him up for adoption. Fortunately, John-Paul went to a loving short-term foster home.

As a young child, J-P had a cutesy quality about him, so beloved of little old ladies! I was astonished when out shopping one day: an elderly lady, not of our acquaintance, ran up to his push-chair and kissed and hugged him! Her explanation was that he was so lovely and ‘these children’ like to be hugged and kissed! I don’t think that she would be quite so enthusiastic, if years later, as a hulking teenager, he were to return the compliment! Another thing that amazed me, while J-P was growing up, was the number of people who said, “You do dress him in a modern way, don’t you?” I began to wonder whether people with Down’s Syndrome were expected to wear a uniform proclaiming their disability.

When J-P was 5 years old we moved to North Wales. Until then he had attended our local primary school in Cambridgeshire, England. Although his social life was good, we felt that J-P did not receive enough of the teacher’s time - hardly surprising in a class of 36 children - and we decided to home school him. Because J-P was a well-behaved lad, this was not a hard decision to make. A special school was not an option we favoured as he might pick up undesirable behaviour patterns.

The beauty of home schooling is that you can come up with innovative ideas, unbounded by the National Curriculum. J-Pi s quite severely mentally disabled and his fine motor skills are not particularly well developed - he found handwriting quite difficult - so I suggested that he should write letters to the famous in the hope of a reply. Like most children, he enjoyed receiving mail and this gave him an incentive to keep improving his writing skills. He has three scrapbooks full of letters ranging from The Queen, Archbishops, The Pope, and Chief Rabbi to his favourite TV and pop stars.

When J-P was thirteen, I thought it might be an idea for him to review his life in the form of an autobiography. The word ‘adoption’ meant very little to him. Basically he knew that the girls had come from my tummy but that another lady had given birth to him: so what? It took him all one term to write his autobiography, but it helped us to discuss the issues surrounding his adoption. We were both delighted when a national magazine got to hear about it and published his work. I wonder if he is the youngest person with a disability to have an autobiography published!

J-P is a James Bond buff, having all the films on video. He watches his favourites over and over again, never tiring of them. Despite his poor motor skills, he surprised us by developing a talent for Nintendo, frequently beating all comers! In 1999 he put this ability to good use when he spectacularly beat our local Member of Parliament in a Nintendo match and thus raised £405 for Children in Need, a national charity.

J-P is a very proud uncle and is also Godfather to his eldest nephew. His nephews and niece love him to pieces and used to fight as to whose turn it was to sit next to him at the table at mealtimes. 'You sat next to Uncle J-P last time, it is my turn today', was a frequent cry

J-P is now 30, he lives in a community home and has done so for the past four years. He loves it there, and the staff think he is WONDERFUL, which is great. I found it hard to cope with two disabled people when my husband became disabled after a subarachnoid haemorrhage nine years ago. J-P's presence in our family has given us much joy. He has confounded the doubters who thought we were mad to adopt a child like him. Without exception, he is loved and respected by all who are fortunate enough to know him. People have been warmed by the big cheesy grin that lights up his face!

These are J-P's words “I am happy, I love my family, life is cool”.

The world would have been a poorer place if our son had not existed.



RJG
 
Moderator
Staff Member
@Bluecheese
Truly inspiring!

That you and your family not only opened your home, but your hearts as well. Is something worth the telling. For you have not only spoken of what it means to love, but have applied it to your life and shared it with one who would have been cast to the wayside.

Thank-you once again for sharing a piece (large one) with us here at Talk Jesus of your life and family.
I thank God for you and yours.
C4E
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