A Mother’s Mission to Defy the Odds

By Ashley Stephens

As an advocate and mother, I cherish the opportunity to share the light my son, Pearson Lane, brings to this world. We received his diagnosis a week after his birth and digesting this was difficult, but we took all the faith we could muster and dove into the unknown. One cautious step after another, we found ourselves advocating for a special need: the need for awareness and inclusion. Down Syndrome Awareness Month is an opportunity to recognize others for their abilities and not focus on their disabilities. Down syndrome can often be identified by delayed physical growth, distinct facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability. It is easy for the world to let these descriptions define the individuals that possess these characteristics. I know that Pearson is more than that, and my mission in life is to show the world that Down syndrome is just another term for MORE.

Down Syndrome Awareness Month is an opportunity to recognize others for their abilities and not focus on their disabilities.

DOWN right proud is an understatement. The strength and willpower within Pearson is something that anyone can admire. He has overcome so many challenges, from open-heart surgery to the daily struggle of having low muscle tone. I find myself wanting to spread his joy everywhere, from the halls at church to the checkout lines in the grocery store.

OPTIMISTIC for the future, because I know in my heart it’s so bright! I choose to not let our vision be clouded by the preconceived ideas that have been associated with this diagnosis. Rather, I focus on a future full of life—the pursuit of happiness, love, and passion. After all, that’s what all of us want!

WINNING is an everyday commitment! It’s not always about the ‘wins’ under your belt, but about the drive and perseverance, you must have to keep trying until you succeed. Having a winning attitude is half the battle.

NOTEWORTHY moments are everywhere and are a reason for celebration each and every day. In this journey, we have learned to look at every milestone as if through a microscope. Allowing us to see clearer, we celebrate the fine details because, after all, they are huge accomplishments in the world of Down syndrome. It warms my heart to see Pearson master the details: from holding his own spoon to sitting up without assistance. It is a big deal!

SUPPORT systems designed like a family–consisting of doctors and nurses, family and friends, even strangers–are invaluable! We have been blessed through this journey to have their support through the highs and the lows. I believe this has been a key to our personal growth, as well as Pearson’s.

Though our children are faced with more difficulties than the average person, they are still humans. Inclusion is crucial to making them feel human, and the cost is so small. Affording individuals with disabilities the same opportunities–in schools, sports, church, and everyday life–that are provided to any other person must not be optional. It is our responsibility to let our children live. Raising a child with a disability has its heartache and trials, but it is also rich with happiness. Many people say that they don’t know if they could handle what we deal with on a daily basis. We were once those people and the truth is, for your children you become the people you need to be. You become MORE.

#downswithpearson