Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Faces of Hope: A Family Album

From The Middletown Press:

Resident Christine Wilson saw having an extra, 21st chromosome as a gift and welcomed a new experience when her son, Willi, was born with Down syndrome.

After years of living through the ups and downs of being a parent of a child with Down syndrome, the positive experience won out.

Wilson recently released her book “Faces of Hope: A Family Album,” dedicated to anyone touched by a child with Down syndrome.

“What I really wanted to do is share hope and understanding with people whose child is diagnosed with Down syndrome,” said Wilson, a special education teacher in Stonington. “I hoped to comfort anyone who embarked on the wonderful journey.”

While Wilson acknowledged there is information available, she said parents aren’t always given good news about Down syndrome and often the diagnosis is viewed as unpleasant.

“You have to take a breath and realize you’re not alone and then realize what a gift you’ve been given,” Wilson said.

According to Wilson, an average of 90 percent of women will choose to terminate their pregnancy when told their baby has Down syndrome before they are given any counseling or information about it.

“It was a little frightening. I’ve had people come up to me saying, ‘Did you ever think about giving him up?’ A special ed teacher asked me that,” said Karen Palilla, whose son, Philip, was featured in Wilson’s book. “The book helped through challenges. It brings you back down to earth again.”

Palilla, of Newtown, said that while there are great challenges that come with parenting a child with Down syndrome, the rewards are even greater.

Wilson aims to capture the rewards in her book, which is filled with black and white photographs of children affected by the syndrome and inspirational quotations.

“It just touched me like you wouldn’t believe,” said Palilla. “I took the book into my office and shared it with fellow employees. I think it helps with the stereotypes. Some people who have always been a little standoffish to talk to me about Philip came up to me saying that the book was beautiful.”

Cathy Lawlor of Arkansas, whose daughter is in the book, said that when she met Wilson she welcomed her to “the club.”

“It’s a club she never intended to belong to, but one that is amazing,” said Lawlor. “She was on a quest to find a family-friendly book about Down syndrome that wasn’t depressing or negative and I thought her quest was wonderful.”

Lawor said the book has helped with stigma in a world where everyone is focused on perfection and her question was, “What’s normal?”

“If I had to do it all over again, I would, but I would cry less. It’s been an awesome ride,” said Palilla.

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