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Sam's Story is written by his parents Laura Camacho and Alex Valdivia. Laura and Alex are very active in the IVDSA community, Laura is a team leader for Little Steps and Next Steps while Alex runs "Dad's Night Out". Together they are rock stars in the Down syndrome community. Read on to meet Sam and his family.
My name is Laura Camacho and my boyfriend, Alex Valdivia, and I have a 4 year old son named Samuel (or Sam) who has DS. We live in Grand Terrace, CA. We became aware of Sam's diagnosis when I was pregnant. While the news was very surprising to us, we ultimately did everything we could to start getting educated about Down syndrome. Sam arrived a month early and had several complications which required him to stay in the NICU for two months. However, since he got out of the hospital he has just been growing by leaps and bounds, has had only a few health issues and is currently attending a private preschool.
Our family started attending IVDSA’s Little Steps program (ages 0-3) about 3 years ago. We really wanted to be involved in the DS community and were lucky enough to come across a Little Steps flyer. We found connecting with other parents in similar circumstances very helpful and I wanted to be part of continuing to make that happen. While we were still (and still are) learning about Down syndrome, I at least wanted to help be a support for families by providing comfort, directing them to resources and sharing what our family had learned along the way. My intention really was to help out, not to necessarily lead the group, but things just work out the way they do. I find it rewarding to be an IVDSA Team Leader. Our Little Steps group has really grown over the years and now we have our Next Steps program (ages 4-7) which is great since Sam just turned 4 in March of 2019.
As parents we try to absorb as much information as we can from presenters at our IVDSA program meetings, and through other parents and leaders. We also find it very helpful to connect with many families with kids of different ages. It has been nice to have a local organization like IVDSA as DS support is limited in our area.
We have participated in many of IVDSA’s social gatherings and events. Our Next Steps group went to an indoor playground and it was so awesome to see the kids climbing their way up the structures and having fun. The parents had fun as well. Events like the the Christmas events and Buddy Walk provide great opportunities for us to connect. These events are also opportunities for Sam to interact with his peers and to build friendships.
The stories and experiences that other families and friends share with us are very powerful. There are so many choices and decisions we have as parents, that being able to share our stories is something we do not take for granted. We gain a lot of inspiration from all the families in our IVDSA community. We are very pro-inclusion for Sam and we try to educate ourselves on how to make that possible.
Our family motto has become "presume he can." Sometimes we can get in a certain mindset where we are telling ourselves as parents that it's o.k. if he doesn't ultimately do "x," but we have become better at reminding ourselves that we should always presume he can.