Meet Joey. This energetic, fun-loving five-year-old has a smile that can melt your heart and a swagger that tells you he’s going places. Joey’s parents, Tom and Jennifer Towell, call him their super hero. You’d never guess that Joey, who has Down Syndrome, has faced a multitude of challenges in his mere five years because each time he faces adversity, he comes out stronger and more determined—like a super hero, you could say.
“For Joe we would go to the moon and back. He’s amazing!” beamed Joey’s mom, Jennifer. “He’d had seven surgeries by the time he was three. He’s this funny little boy and he just makes us so proud every day,” she said. “Given the opportunity, there’s no ceiling on what he can do!”
Tom and Jennifer say that when they first learned that Joey had Down Syndrome they were a little apprehensive and wondered if they had what it took to be great parents for him. “At first it was scary,” Tom acknowledged. “And now it is a blessing. It’s really no different than what you would do for a typical kid.”
“When you have a child with a disability or special needs, sometimes it’s hard to ask for help,” Joey’s mom explained. “You want to figure it out yourself, but I think once you realize that there are people and places like Summit DD that are there to help you, that’s part of the battle,” she added. “Just being able to accept the help and being OK with it. I think Joe’s really taught us that it’s OK to not be able to do everything and provide everything—get these other resources.”
The Towells will tell you that through Summit DD’s Early Intervention (EI) program, they got the support, the tools and the connections needed for his development. “The best benefit of Early Intervention for Joe and for us was having that contact,” recalled Jennifer. “It was all so new. It was scary and intimidating and so much to keep straight. It was helpful to have someone to talk to, bounce ideas off of and get resources from.”
When Joey was ready for preschool, the Towells thought it would be a simple search. They wanted Joey and his brother together and were dismayed when they talked to several preschools who told them they would not be able to support Joey’s needs. After numerous preschools said no, the Towells again turned to Summit DD for help.
Summit DD’s Community Partnership for Inclusion (CPI) program helped the family find a preschool that was a good fit for both boys. Summit DD staff offered support to the preschool through education and on-site learning methods and provided training for the preschool’s teachers, making the room accessible for Joey and his classmates.
“We go into a classroom and observe,” Lisa Gibson, Inclusion Support Specialist, explained about Summit DD’s role to support local preschools. “We help the teacher with strategies, help them with inclusion, and we get to know the entire classroom. It’s not just the child.” Lisa enjoys her role with the CPI program and the many great children and families she’s met along the way. “Working with Joey has been an awesome experience. He’s self-motivated,” she said with a warm smile. “Joey’s going to do great things!”
Since being part of their inclusive community preschools, the Towells have seen Joey’s language and motor skills take off. They couldn’t be happier with the progress they are seeing.
The Towell family is looking forward to what the future holds. As their little super hero reaches each new milestone in his life, his parents will continue to be there to love him, support him and make sure that he is connected to resources like Summit DD to help him succeed.
“That’s always been our goal for Joe, to help him be as independent as he can be,” Jennifer reflected. “And just kind of being there in the background supporting him as needed and using community resources out there to help us help him. We want to help him achieve his dreams, whatever they might be.”
Visit SummitDD.org/My-Story for Joey’s video.