For children with Down syndrome, communication is challenging. And yet it’s crucial for tackling the social isolation these youngsters often face. Thankfully, charitable trust UpsideDowns is helping children with Down syndrome nationwide find their voice.
The trust was set up in 2003 by a group of dedicated parents of children with Down syndrome. And since those early days, UpsideDowns has helped hundreds of tamariki by covering the cost of speech and language therapy.
According to the trust’s Fundraising and Digital Media Manager, Adrian Hatwell, speech and language therapy is essential for children with Down syndrome. However, he says it is not provided by the Ministry of Education, and the cost of private therapy is often unaffordable for families.
‘Research shows that communication improves mental and physical health outcomes for people with Down syndrome,’ says Adrian. And he adds that it can even increase life expectancy.
‘Speech and language therapy reduces social isolation,’ explains Adrian. ‘It means these tamariki can build friendships and develop a sense of belonging in their community. And it eases the transition into schools and employment,’ he says.
Quite simply, it's life-changing for the youngsters and their families, friends and whānau.
Currently, UpsideDowns has 300 active members on the books. The children come from all backgrounds and parts of the country, from Northland to Southland. However, Adrian estimates that about a third of the members are here in Auckland.
UpsideDowns has grown substantially over the last few years. ‘We had outgrown our original office, which was a single room above a daycare facility in Mount Albert,’ Adrian explains. UpsideDowns desperately needed larger office space to deliver its vital services more effectively.
And an application to the Your West Support Fund made all the difference. UpsideDowns has now moved into a new, more spacious office in Avondale.
‘The $5,000 was a huge help with the relocation costs,’ says Adrian. ‘Now we can continue to grow and support the next generation of children with Down syndrome,’ he adds.
The larger office space also means UpsideDowns can open its doors to members and the wider community.
Among several events held at the headquarters was a launch party for the Chow Downs recipe book. From bliss balls to burgers, the beautifully illustrated book includes 50 family-favourite recipes recommended by UpsideDowns’ members. And all proceeds go towards supporting the trust’s essential work.
One grateful parent sums up the impact of UpsideDowns by saying, ‘Louis's speech and language therapy is making a real difference. Normally we would be second-guessing how he is feeling.’
Thanks to UpsideDowns, Louis and hundreds of children like him now have a voice.