Good Afternoon, my name is Connie Lindquist. I am the mother of five daughters, married for 24 years to my husband Scott. Our fifth daughter, Sophina, has Down Syndrome. When she was born my husband had been working in the printing industry here in St Cloud for seventeen years. When our Sophina was seven days old, my husband walked down the stairs of our house in the middle of the day to let me know that he had been laid off from his job. The next six months are a blur. Our Sophina’s medical history is impressive. She was born with no issues other than what we had already known from her level 2 Ultrasounds (that she had DS and had to have an open heart surgery before she was one) but then when we were ready to leave the hospital our Dr’s were concerned about a few things so we went to the NICU instead of going home. We went home with gadgets to help her. Then that’s when Scott got laid off. It ended up being a blessing as we then had to go to the St Cloud PICU, stayed there for almost a week, went home for a few days then went to the Dr, went back to the PICU for a few more days, went home, went back to the Dr. then got sent to Children’s Mnpls Hospital for a “2-3 day stay” that ended up being FIVE WEEKS! We went home for a few months then went back down to Children’s for her open heart surgery which her recovery had complications and she was there this time for three weeks. In her six months of life she had six procedures, three of them major. She also has a feeding tube which she used exclusively for the first two years of her life.
Our daughter came home from Children’s hospital hardly ever having been on her tummy. She had missed out on six months of her life as a baby. We needed help to know what we were to be doing. The school district was one of the first places that came to our home to help. The district was able to give us information, allow us to use toys that would be needed for short times but highly valuable for our daughter’s growth- both physical and mental, without having to buy them. Even though some of those toys were well used they were useful and needed. Even though we had had four other daughters and we were “experienced parents”, our Sophina needed some things that we did not have and one of those was early education. Theresa, the lady from our district, would not be able to come through that first flu season as our daughter was a child who had a very low immune system and we couldn’t take that risk but it has now been over two years, as our daughter will be 2 years 9 months old tomorrow.
I have a feeling that the image in your mind of our Sophina is one that would NOT be true. If you were to stop right now what would you think she would be looking like? Probably NOT a real to life one.
Our daughter is a precious precious bleach-white-blond-haired, blue eyed, adorable little girl who would melt your heart in under a minute. If i would have known about this sooner, i would have had a video or something to show you how far she has come.
Our daughter has learned many signs for sign language, how to speak (as well as she can even though she still doesn’t have her top front teeth) she can say almost all of the sounds of the alphabet, she is walking, she loves being read to, she plays with balls and toys, she understands what we are saying and responds to us in many ways...through words and her body language.
We have lived in the St Cloud area for 23 years and we know hundreds of people. There are so many people who could walk in here right now and tell you of how their meeting Sophina, their knowing Sophina, their spending time with Sophina, even people who have “met Sophina” through Facebook has changed their lives! They have seen what the effects of education has done for a child who many would say is a waste of our time and money! Our daughter has learned amazingly with the help of our district.
When Theresa comes now, our Sophina is full of excitement because Theresa brings new therapy toys each week. She brings them in a bag and a see through box container. Theresa has Sophina walk to the bag to pick which therapy toy she wants to play with. Sophina’s face is so full of anticipation as she touches, feels, and contemplates which item to choose. There is a whole team who come intermittently and are amazed when they see how far she has come. There is speech, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist who may come once or twice a month and then Theresa comes once a week and they all work to help us as parents and our daughters do the work when they are not there.
The way that Sophina changed our lives...well, they are countless so it would take way too long to share but i WILL tell you the biggest! We are eight days away from leaving the country and going to Eastern Europe to meet our son, Ethan. He is fifteen days older than Sophina. He has Down Syndrome. In his country and the other countries in Eastern Europe there are thousands of children wasting away in orphanages where whole nations believe that they SHOULD be. The governments there do NOT spend money on these children and do you want to know what happens there? They die...some without ever being held one time in their life, some without ever seeing one toy or book in their life....these countries do not believe in spending money on children with DS and they are missing out on the many blessings that could be in their school systems, their neighborhoods, and their churches! You will not find a child with Ds in jail due to his murdering someone, or stealing a car, or hurting someone. You will not have children with DS making your schools worse but instead you will see those children with DS changing YOUR children’s lives because YOUR children will see what it means to love without holding back, YOUR children will see what it means to give without expecting anything back, YOUR children will see what it means to have compassion for other people when someone is hurting, YOUR children will see what it means to be CONTENT with little, YOUR children will see what it means to care about someone who isn’t like them because they will see that that child with DS cares-- about them!!!
When we lose sight of helping the least amongst us, we as a country will never succeed! When we spend our money on the things that do not matter than we will have consequences. Children with DS are not going to be a waste of my tax money...of your taxes being spent. They are one of the wisest choices for you to spend our hard earned money on because they are some of the wisest people on earth!
SO when you go home to your children or your grandchildren one day....i am not trying to be dramatic but i ask you to think about this... when they ask you why you chose to spend our taxes on such and such.....will your reasons be ones that you will be proud of.... reasons that are full of integrity and wisdom or reasons that would not be ones that you would want to be asked in front of your children and grandchildren. You see one day your child or grandchild may be in the same Vacation Bible School class as our Sophina and Ethan and they may come home and ask you some questions....your decisions will make the difference in REAL people’s lives that make REAL changes.