‘Homies with Extra Chromies’ BBQ… for families raising children with Down syndrome!

Feeling alone is a very common feeling shared by many parents that are raising children with special needs. Some don’t know how to reach out for support, or even that support is available.  The Parent to Parent program at Children’s Village provides support for families in many different ways.

Last night our Homies with Extra Chromies  Down syndrome group met offsite for a BBQ. One of our families welcomed us into their home. I had the opportunity to see magic happen outside of Children’s Village. Kids were playing, parents were talking and laughing… it was awesome! These parents, children and families that didn’t even know each other a few years ago are now good friends!

Some feel that you should only come to a support group if you need support. The truth is you take turns giving and receiving support, often without realizing it, and find friendship along the way.

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It takes a Village . . .

by Michelle and John Riggs, parents of Laura, the Mr. Ike Miracle Child

It takes a village to raise a child. Little did I know how true this proverb would be to our family. When Laura was little, we lived in Idaho. There wasn’t anything like a Children’s Village there. I was alone. Autism back then seemed like an unspeakable disorder, something to be whispered about behind closed doors. I started noticing signs of Autism in my daughter. When I brought up my concerns to Laura’s Pediatrician, he brushed them aside. She just has a speech delay, he told me, and signed us up with a speech therapist that came once a month, if that. That nagging feeling of something is not quite right persisted. When we moved to Yakima and Laura was in Kindergarten, her teacher pulled us aside and mentioned how Laura would probably benefit by having an evaluation done by Children’s Village. I had always kind of wondered about Laura having Autism, and yet it was kind of a blow to our family. We were suspicious of professionals due to being brushed off before. But this place was different. When the therapist talked to us, it was in words we understood. When we had questions, they walked us through everything. They made sure to know I wasn’t alone. They offered support for me, my husband, and our daughter Lily. All services Laura received was at the village. While she enjoyed Occupation therapy in the gym, my other two children got to play in the Child Care center, and I was able to talk to other moms that have been in my position, moms that have just started their journey,  And moms that are on a different path than I.  Together , with others at the Village, we have shared triumphs. And we have shed tears for the challenges we are faced with. But we will not have to face these challenges alone…. We have our Village.

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April Is Autism Awareness Month

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World Down syndrome Day 3/21/17

Our parent group Yakima Valley Homies with Extra Chromies hosted a walk on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at the track up at West Valley’s Freshman Campus. We were small but mighty, out to celebrate World Down syndrome Day. It had been pouring rain throughout the day but as it was meant to be the clouds opened up, the rain stopped and we had sunshine for our walk. As families started to arrive we had bubbles ready to fly and boy did they! We had children with Down syndrome, their families and friends come to walk and celebrate. There was fun, laughter, exercise, support and amazing connections made that day. Our families never cease to amaze me for the love they have for their kids and for each other! They never miss an opportunity to celebrate just how truly awesome their kids are!

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Celebrate “World Down syndrome Day” – March 21

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Our last visit to Children’s Village

Today, my son Andy had his last appointment at Children’s Village!  A very sad day, but we know it’s time to transition him to adult services in the community.  Andy has been coming to the Children’s Village dental clinic for almost 20 years! 

For a person with Autism, and significant sensory issues, dental appointments should be very challenging.  But we’ve never used that word to describe our visits.  Andy loves coming for dental appointments.  The skilled, caring staff are incredibly patient and calm as they ease him into various dental procedures.  They are so very engaging with him, listening to his stories, celebrating moments with ‘high fives’ and ‘hugs’- they have become friends to my son; and yes… we may have to come back for a visit every once in a while! 

I’m so thankful to the dental staff who worked so hard to build a strong foundation of care for Andy as he continues to access dental services in the community. 

THANK YOU Children’s Village dental….. you are appreciated more than you know!

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Everything in his own time

Born in 2014, Alex Ponce was born with Down syndrome and complete AVSD, a congenital heart defect and struggled with pneumonia until he was 7 months old.

At 9 ½ months old he had open heart surgery to repair a small hole in his heart.  He tolerated the surgery well, but during recovery he suffered cardiac arrest and blood clots, causing a stroke.  Not knowing if he would survive, Alex’s mother, Martha, had him baptized in the hospital.  Thankfully, Alex recovered well enough to go home a month after surgery.  Alex fought hard and continues to slowly recover from the stroke.

Now nearly 3 years old, Alex is walking with a little help.  His recovery has been amazing.  He has gone to Children’s Village for physical and occupational therapy since he was 6 weeks old and now also receives speech therapy.  The family is grateful to Children’s Village for helping supply a walker for Alex until he was approved to get his own and for helping him get a toddler bed to keep him safe at night.  The Village staff love him as much as his family does and share in his ups and downs in life.  

The youngest in a big family, Alex is very social.  He is lucky to have a great mom and dad and a bunch of siblings who are a big part of his recovery. When they found out the newest member of their family would have Down syndrome all his siblings wanted to know is if he would be able to play with them, and every day they do just that!

Alex’s family is grateful to everyone at Children’s Village for the multitude of services and support they have received.  Alex’s mom Martha says, “Thank you to our physical therapist, speech therapist, educator, occupational therapist and family coordinator, who have all gone above and beyond to help Alex, and for doing everything possible to make our sweet boy’s life better. We will never forget you!”

“Everything in his own time” is what Alex’s mom believes in.  Along this journey, Alex shares his beautiful smile as he joyfully takes on each challenge presented by his therapists at Children’s Village. 

You can’t rush a miracle like Alex.   Everything Alex does or just the joy in his eyes makes his mom smile and realize how special he is and what a joy life is raising him.  His mom enjoys every moment of every day in seeing this little miracle show everyone around him what you can overcome if you just keep trying and never give up. It may not be on a time line that is set in front of him, but that’s okay because once all is said and done, “it’s in his own time”.




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Children’s Village has made an impact in her life…

untitled“I walked into the doors of Children’s Village nearly 15 years ago and knew I wanted to be a part of this amazing place.  I wanted to help families get connected by “crossing the bridge” to resources to benefit the whole family.  As a sibling of a brother with cerebral palsy, I know what trials and tribulations the entire family goes through with every stage of life.  There really is no moment and no transition in life that doesn’t require more focused, detailed attention when you have a family member with a disability.  As a physical therapist here – I hope to do what I can to help children explore their worlds, by rolling, crawling, walking or rolling with wheels!  I am inspired every day to come to work- joining families on their journeys, supporting, connecting to resources for the parents, the siblings, and the child to improve their journeys!  Every individual that works here has such a commitment and their passion is unsurmountable.  I believe in Children’s Village and how much we can do to continue (and improve) on how we support children with special needs and their entire family.” 


– by Karla Pezzarossi, Children’s Village Physical Therapist

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Thankful for Children’s Village

“Being involved at Children’s Village has been a privilege to me.  I love the children, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for all the parents I meet who advocate and care for their children so beautifully.  I also think the Parent to Parent team is amazing.  I have thoroughly enjoyed co-leading Holland, a parent support group, with Tracie Hoppis.  She is a pro when it comes to providing a welcoming, safe and caring atmosphere where parents feel comfortable sharing.”          – Debbi Baldwin, Children’s Village Volunteer

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Autism 200 Series

Autism 200 is a series of free 90-minute classes for parents and caregivers of children with autism who wish to better understand this disorder. Community providers are also welcome to attend. Faculty from Seattle Children’s and the University of Washington and community providers teach the classes. Each class includes time for questions.

Parent to Parent, in partnership with Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy (WAAA), will be offering Autism 200 classes each third Thursday, monthly (with the exception of December) at Children’s Village. We will be participating in the class via teleconferencing with Seattle Children’s Hospital. Topics will vary from month to month.

November’s class will be:

Autism 211: In Our Own Words: A panel of Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

November 17, 2016 Facilitator: Gary Stobbe, MD

7-8:30 pm

Children’s Village Host: Erin Deery, WAAA

Childcare is available to parents and caregivers only. Please call Stacy at 509-574-3255 to reserve childcare. (Childcare is for children 1-12 years old).

Please note: The Autism Support Group also meets each third Thursday, monthly, at Children’s Village (from 6-8:00 pm). This group is for parents and caregivers only. We ask that parents/caregivers choose which group they would like to attend each month, as it would be disruptive to try to attend both.

For questions please contact:

Elizabeth Cruz (509) 574-3266                 Erin Deery (509) 574-6727

Parent to Parent Program Specialist              Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy

Autism Support Group Facilitator

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