So, here’s the plan. Are you ready for the plan? Good. Because here’s the plan:
Naomi will have two more school years at home before heading into high school at the same school Garyn is at now. Garyn will be a senior, so they will be at school together for one year. When that happens Corra will be in 5th grade and will do one year at home, just her and Layna. Then Corra will join Naomi at the charter school and do all three years of middle school while Naomi finishes her last three years of high school. That is, of course, assuming she wants to go to middle school at an actual school…if she wants to stay home I’m totally good with that. We’ll see when we get there. But Layna will do home school all the way though. It’s awesome actually, because school for Layna is basically whatever she wants it to be. She will continue to learn all the basic life skills (money, laundry, cooking, etc) and reading. Beyond that it doesn’t matter. There are no expectations she has to meet, no tests she has to pass. No pressure. Her academic life is based solely on her interests. Most likely when she is the sole occupant of the upstairs (i.e. all her siblings have moved out), we will remodel what is currently Garyn’s room to give her a sitting room and kitchenette, thus turning the upstairs into her own apartment. If Corra goes to middle school away, we will also turn the current school room into a craft room and office for Layna. At first glance one might worry that she would feel left out or left behind…well, that’s where GiGi’s Playhouse comes in.
There is a place up in Raleigh called GiGi’s Playhouse. It is a Down Syndrome Achievement Center. Long story short it’s a community center for people with Down Syndrome, providing all sorts of programs and events for all ages. There are GiGi’s locations all over the United States and it’s only growing. When the pandemic hit, we missed going to GiGi’s. A few years ago, Layna did speech therapy here and it was awesome. They also had a home school play group that we went to once before the lock downs. Restrictions continue to lift and they recently opened back up and we’ve been to two events…and I’m already trolling their upcoming calendar.
I love this place for so many reasons, but one of them is how much they focus on the whole family. Corra is always invited to events that Layna can go to (most events have age specifications) and of all my kids, Corra is the one who has the most questions about Down Syndrome. She wants to know why that extra chromosome makes them talk differently and why they look different. She is the one who asks me if a random person has Down Syndrome, because she still is sorting out what that means exactly. Spending time at GiGi’s helps her answer a lot of her questions. In a world where Down Syndrome is being systematically eradicated, I’m glad Corra and Garyn and Naomi are learning that these people are worth fighting for.
Today Layna and I went to a dance class. Corra opted to go with Dad and the big kids on a shopping run in the meantime. Oh. My. Gosh. Layna had so much fun! There were so many new friends to say hi to and the dancing? Fuggettaboutit. Girlfriend shook her groove thing and boogied down. Sometimes it’s a dicey thing…Down Syndrome. On one hand we want her to be able to pursue anything she wants too, and on the other hand we want her to be in an environment where she can actually succeed and not just be tolerated. At GiGi’s everyone’s ability level was the same and the class was challenging but she was able to do it all and have a wonderful time. I can’t really express how cool it is to be surrounded by people who don’t need me to translate so they can understand Layna. A place where she isn’t an anomaly where people have to re-calibrate their default interaction settings. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not complaining! I don’t begrudge anyone who has to get used to Layna, she’s kind of a lot…it’s just nice to not be ready to run interference at a moments notice. It’s just nice to be in a place where she is normal.
So yeah. We’ve found her a place of her very own…one that I’m thinking will keep her calendar full for years to come. Her siblings will keep moving forward and so will she and we are all looking forward to the adventures heading our way in these next few years.