‘Don’t be afraid of Down Syndrome. It is in every part of Maisie and she is amazing’
A local family are encouraging people to mark World Down Syndrome Day by sharing photographs on social media of them wearing odd socks.
The family of eight-year-old Maisie Colhoun mark World Down Syndrome Day every March 21st by donning their odd socks.
In the last year Maisie has become something of a social media star, after her mum Dawn set up a Facebook page to help teach the community how to communiciate with her daughter.
‘Makaton, Maisie and Me’ now has thousands of followers and features regular videos of Dawn and Maisie signing words in Makaton.
Maisie was diagnosed with Down Syndrome shortly after she was born and spent the first few months of her life in hospital.
“After Maisie was born she never made the transition to breathing and she had to be ventilated and sent to the neo-natal unit,” Dawn explains. “A nurse told me that Maisie was very, very sick and they believed she had Down Syndrome.”
Maisie was born with two holes in her heart and at just 18 weeks old had to be transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital in an air ambulance for open heart surgery.
The eight-year-old has remained in good health over the last few years, but was born with hyper mobility and low tone.
“Maisie has to regulate her whole body before she can learn anything. Maisie is such a fighter and is coming on leaps and bounds,” Dawn said.
One of the hardest aspects for Dawn was finding out that Maisie has a severe learning disability.
“I always knew, but seeing it written down really brings it home. She totally understands everything that people are saying, but has no awareness of danger whatsoever and has to be watched 24/7.”
Dawn said she would like people to say congratulations when they find out a family is having a child with Down Syndrome.
“A life with a child with Down Syndrome brings ups and downs like any other child, but it brings love and happiness and celebrates the triumph of achieving every little thing, of taking time and appreciating everything in life.
“With every new milestone we celebrate it like a World Cup win and Maisie just loves it when we start cheering and clapping.
“Having a child with Down Syndrome also comes with the usual behaviours, tantrums, mischief making and everything other kids do. It does not define who they are.”
Dawn has encouraged people not to be afraid of Down Syndrome.
“There is nothing Maisie can’t do. A physical or a learning disability is not going to stop her,” Dawn said.
“Don’t be afraid of Down Syndrome. It is in every part of Maisie and she is amazing.”
As well as being a social media star, Maisie is an ambassador for Making Chromosomes Count and features in a book, compiled by Wouldn’t Change a Thing, which is given to the parents of recently diagnosed children.
Throughout the last year Maisie and Dawn have also received incredible support from three local charities - Foyle Down Syndrome Trust, Sense and the Mae Murray Foundation.
“We would have normally been out every day at different clubs so the last year has been incredibly tough for Maisie, who doesn’t really understand everything that is going on. We have been able to take part in events and classes online.”
Dawn said the family decided to shield during the pandemic to keep their daughter safe.
“Maisie touches everything and even if we were to go out for a walk, she has this aura that draws people to her and she would be wanting to hug them and touch them. Lockdown has been really difficult for her and she wasn’t really coping at all. Being back at school has made things easier.”
Dawn has encouraged everyone to share their pictures of wearing odd socks with them this Sunday at https://www.facebook.com/MakatonMaisieandMe .
She also said that parents whose child has recently received a diagnosis can contact her at anytime via the page.