Pre-schoolers at a village nursery sported odd socks as they celebrated World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) last week.
Children and staff at Ancaster Village Nursery and Forest School turned up wearing a variety of brightly coloured, mismatched socks last Wednesday to mark the global awareness initiative #LotsofSocks and in support of one of their families.
Campaigners came up with the initiative because chromosomes are shaped “like socks” and people with Down Syndrome have an extra chromosome.
Nursery manager Michelle Webster helped organise the awareness day at nursery.
She said: “One of our little girls, Jaimie, has got Down Syndrome and so it is very personal to us as a nursery. Each of the staff members has learnt how to use Makaton – a language programme using signs and symbols to help people communicate and even some of the chidren know how to sign too. We always make sure that we check any awareness days. We asked both children and staff to either wear blue and yellow clothing, which are the colours of Down Syndrome and/or wear odd socks. It was a very powerful message.”
Three-year-old Jaimie Mellor has been attending the village nursery for just over a year after moving to Cranwell in 2016, where she lives on the RAF base with her mum Emma, 28, dad Steven, 31, and brother Logan, four.
Emma discovered Jaimie had down syndrome when she was 32 weeks pregnant after various tests and scans.
She said: “The consultant told me at our 20-week scan that Jaimie had severe ventriculomegaly which meant that she had too much fluid on her brain. We were told that it was highly likely that she would be severely disabled and brain damaged and that we should strongly consider a late termination. Given the situation, the RAF sent Steve home and we spent a traumatic week researching our options. We found some hope that Jaimie might be ok so we decided to continue with the pregnancy but spent the rest of it worrying about what might be. We were told that Jaimie would only have a 50 percent chance of surviving past the first few days of life. At this point, there was so much emphasis and worry put on this ventriculomegaly that our baby having Down’s seemed like the least of our worries and we hadn’t really considered its implications.”
Despite everything, Jaimie was born healthy and another MRI scan revealed that her brain condition wasn’t as bad as they’d expected. After 10 days, Jaimie was allowed to go home to her family.
Despite her tough start in life, Jaimie hasn’t let it hold her back and has grown into a very confident, outgoing toddler.
Emma added: “Jaimie has always been slightly delayed with her development compared to the average child her age but for a child with down syndrome, her progress is remarkable. She walked not long after her second birthday and whilst her speech is very delayed, she is great at using Makaton signing to aid her communication.”
Jaimie loves being centre of attention, so much so that she landed a modelling contract with Zebedee management and has recently taken part in her first shoot for Mothercare/ELC.
Despite leading such busy lives including working, studying and caring for their son who has additional needs after being born with a cleft lip and pallet and having surgery at just five-months-old and then undergoing open heart surgery when he was just two-years-old after being born with a hole in his heart, the family are devoted to research and fights for inclusion rights.
Emma added: “There are policies in place that are designed to support children with additional needs but unfortunately there is a huge gap between government standards and the support that is actually available from the local authority, with their restricted budgets.
“We’ve come across issues of disability discrimination which usually gets overlooked because no one is willing or possibly able, to challenge it so we are currently working towards challenging this.”
The family have been overwhelmed with the support that they have received from the nursery.
Emma added: “We couldn’t make it work without the support of Ancaster nursery. We’ve had a great response for World Down Syndrome Day. Ancaster didn’t hesitate to get involved when I spoke to them about it and we were overwhelmed by the response from the other children and their parents.
“Jaimie stands out everywhere we go whether she wants to or not. She doesn’t yet have any knowledge or understanding as to why and is just happy for the attention. We hope to encourage her confident personality and encourage her to embrace her differences.
‘Why try to fit in when you were born to stand out?’
For more information, visit: www.worlddownsyndromeday.org #LotsOfSocks