Playing with a 2 year old named Ty, seniors Olivia Quattrone and Kaelem Mohabir gaze at the boy as he beats the wooden blocks on the floor.



As I reflect on volunteering with the Down Syndrome Foundation of Central Florida for the past two and a half years, I can’t picture my life without the friendships I’ve made or the life lessons the kids taught me.

Throughout the years I have learned that people who have disabilities are capable of nearly everything. Having an extra chromosome doesn’t define a child, but rather it attributes to his unique personality. Furthermore, I have learned to have patience, how to love and how to be a good friend.

This past weekend, my friends and I volunteered at iCan Communicate, a DSFF sponsored event. Our job was to watch 14 children, ages two through four, as their parents learned how to use an app, Proloquo2Go, which would allow the children to communicate more easily. The app pairs symbols with pictures to teach the children words. The app also speaks when the participant clicks on the picture so he understand how to sound out words he reads and match it with pictures he sees on the screen.

As a parent was checking up on his child who was crying for his mother, he jokingly said, “now you guys will never want to have kids.” I thought quite the contrary. If anything, working with these kids has made me want children more.

Over the past two years I have worked with the foundation, I have learned that being a parent of a child with disabilities is difficult, but it is worth it. These children and parents have taught me what it means to love unconditionally. I can guarantee you that none of these parents would wish for their kids to magically lose a chromosome because that chromosome has brought them all the more joy and all the more patience. If anything, having a child who has an extra chromosome just means you have more to love.

As I continue to volunteer with the foundation, I meet peers and children that make me utterly happy. Through my service with the DSFF I have been privileged to meet some remarkable people. I am lucky to call a 21-year-old girl with Down syndrome named Elyse a friend of mine. Elyse attends the University of Central Florida, is an officer for the Best Buddies chapter and has a job.

Working with the children reaffirmed my belief that it is my calling to work with kids who have disabilities. Originally, I was going to study business and minor in non-profit, but now I intend on studying speech pathology.

I excitedly anticipate my future career with open arms that are ready to hug and hold children with speech impediments and disabilities. I feel like I will finally give back to a community that has given me unconditional love and friendship.





By Elizabeth Gordon

I am the Editor-in-Chief of hilights and will be attending University of Central Florida in the fall.

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