My husband, Dave, and I chose to be Alicia’s parents. We met Alicia, fell in love with her and became her parents through international adoption. Although, Alicia having Down syndrome was something we had to consider, to us, it did not define her and ultimately didn’t matter when it came to our decision to adopt her. Yes, it is a part of her and is one of the many pieces that makes her the person she is. But we saw a smart, charismatic and amazingly strong and resilient little girl, who happened to have Down syndrome. Her strength is one of her traits that first stood out to me. And it continues to inspire me every day.
Alicia spent her first year living on the streets, she spent the next 6 months in an orphanage that neglected the children before she arrived at the orphanage where we met her. Despite a rough beginning, Alicia remained happy and strong. While in the last orphanage, through her strength, she taught herself how to walk. She taught herself how to eat. She taught herself how to run and climb. Seeing these amazing accomplishments and progression from one year to the next is when Dave and I knew we had to take her home. We had to give Alicia a chance to reach her fullest potential. When her caretakers at the orphanage told her that we were her family and taking her to her new home, she forced a smile on her face and didn’t shed a tear. She continues to conquer any challenge in front of her, from leaving her country, to the first time on an airplane, to doctor’s appointments and surgery and of course her first day of school.
After all the changes that we had thrown at Alicia in bringing her home, we were nervous how she would react to being in a school setting. Thankfully, we found Stepping Stones. Their small class size and amazing staff to student ratio is perfect for Alicia. Every student gets the attention they need. The school is a family. It’s apparent as soon as you walk through the door, that the teachers and classroom aides truly care for and love these children and are teaching them and pushing them to their fullest potential. And I see it in Alicia, too. She loves school and sometimes on the weekends she even asks if she can go to school. Stepping Stones also supports the parents. They in essence teach us how to teach her and also teach us about Down syndrome.
Every day, Dave and I are still learning. Still learning how to parent and still learning about Down syndrome. There are frustrating moments, like having a 5-year-old that was still in process of toilet training, but the rewards are well worth it. To see her smile with pride as she swam for the first time on her own (and only after 5 lessons!) was priceless. I’ve watched her sweet, kind demeanor and intelligence break down barriers of people’s perception of Down syndrome. I often get a response of “Wow, she’s smart” (as if I didn’t know). We are still learning how Down syndrome will affect Alicia. It is a part of her. But one thing we do know: Alicia is amazing.
Please come celebrate Alicia, change perceptions and party with The Nerds at Cocktails for a Cause “Celebrating Our Children”.
–Stephanie Dotto (Alicia’s mom)
Click here to make your reservations: http://thecandlelighters.org/cocktailsforacause2016