DANCES WITH HER HEART
by Glenda Townsend
On May 8, 1987, I gave birth to a beautiful blonde, blue eyed, baby girl.
Minutes after she was born, the doctor told us she had "mongolism," a term I detest to this very day. I explained to him, that we no longer say that, but Down Syndrome.
He told us not to expect too much of her. She may never walk, probably won't talk, or even play like other children. He said just to love her, for now, and consider putting her into an institution in the future.
I said, no way, I would raise her just like my other children.
She was the best baby ever! She only cried when she was hungry,
and hardly fussed at all. I loved holding her and rocking her to sleep. She had a calming effect on anyone who held her.
By the time she was 18 months old, she was walking and getting into all kinds of mischief. She and her brother, who was 1-1/2 years older, played together constantly and were inseparable. They seemed to learn together, although Kathy was the more inquisitive of the two. We had learned, by this time, that Andrew, too, was mentally challenged.
Music for Andrew had a calming effect, but for Kathy, it was a
chance to "shake her booty." She loved to dance. Even sitting down,
if a song came on that she liked, she would wiggle, almost in time to
When Kathy was 3, Don and I managed to get away for a very short
three day holiday. On the way back, we stopped at a native gift shop
and bought the kids some gifts. One for Kathy was a set of ankle bells. They were attached to leather and you tied them to your ankles and danced. She wore them every day for a week and danced her little heart out.
When she was about 8 years old, I tried to get her into a ballet class but was met with so much indifference and indignation from the teacher that I gave it up.
Two years later, another teacher opened another dance school and
I met with her and asked what she thought. She said she would love to give it a try. She didn't know if she could teach Kathy anything but she thought it would be good for her.
For the first year she put Kathy in a class with typical kids. Kathy did pretty well, but it was evident that she could not keep up.
The next year she started up a class for special kids. There were three young girls and some older people from a local group home for mentally challenged adults.
They were a hit at the year end show! Everyone loved them, and
clapped along with the music.
That same year a friend came with her son, who is a very good
dancer. He also had Down Syndrome. The teacher invited him to be a
guest dancer at the recital. She now had a goal for Kathy.
When Kathy was 16, the teacher decided she would do a solo at
the year end recital. Kathy did her solo and was a hit! There was not a dry eye in the place.
During the last four years she has danced solos for the schools, and danced at a community show. She still loves to dance and her teacher is pleased with her progress. She has been invited to dance at the year end recital at another dance school, and has been invited to travel to Edmonton, Alberta, to dance at a school for special students. This will probably happen in May or June this year.
Kathy is in college, now, in a different town, but comes home every weekend and has a dance lesson every Friday night. I do hope this continues, as she definitely connects with her dance teacher.
She brings rave revues of her dancing wherever she goes and smiles
and says "thank you" to all the compliments.
She realizes she is different, but when it comes to her dancing,
she simply dances with her heart.
-- Glenda Townsend <gat1127 @ yahoo.ca>
Glenda lives in Invermere, British Columbia, Canada, with her