The North County Moms’ founder, María Felicia Kelley and her husband, Danny Kalageropoulos Collins are parents to 14-year-old Constantine who was born with Trisomy 21. María established The North County Moms (a part of the Local Moms Network) in the San Diego, CA area. Here, María and Danny share what their son Constantine’s life with Down syndrome has taught them in the hopes they can break barriers and share what matters most — love.
The Kalageropoulos’ Seven Life Lessons from Raising a Child Diagnosed with Down Syndrome
Life is to be lived fully.
Maria: When my beautiful son Constantine was born, I was scared that my family’s life would be remarkably different compared to the life we had raising ‘typical’ kids. [Constantine is the couple’s third child.] I envisioned it becoming exceptionally hard, but that never happened.
My son is capable beyond my imagination.
Maria: I feel triumphant in recognition of all that Constantine does — the joy he brings, the spunky nature he shares, and the deep connection I feel to him.
You can overcome fear.
Maria: When I looked into Constantine’s chocolate-drop-colored eyes for the first time, I instantly saw wisdom. I saw his intelligence. I saw the promise of his abilities – and he’s manifested them as a highly functional person. Fourteen years ago I had so many underlying fears, mainly because of stereotypes perpetuated by the medical and therapeutic communities. But getting to know my son dispelled my doubts.
We learned to appreciate the power of patience.
Danny: While Constantine quietly processes what he hears and wants to say, he may give the impression that he doesn’t understand something; in fact, he does. Constantine is cautious in giving verbal feedback but that shouldn’t distract from his ability to do everything and anything that he is asked to do, academically or otherwise.
Society’s perception of Down syndrome is shifting in a positive way.
Maria: I have witnessed a cultural shift around perceptions associated with the Trisomy 21 diagnosis. I think social media has played an important role in this changing dynamic. As parents highlight their personal stories of their wonderful 3-21 children, the world is watching and understanding a community that has been largely neglected and misunderstood.
I also think teens and young adults who live with Down Syndrome share their lives as readily as those without the diagnosis, proving they seek many of the same experiences that life offers.
Advocacy and representation are life-changing.
Maria: Down Syndrome is the least federally funded genetic condition in the U.S., but advocacy groups like Global Down Syndrome Foundation are working to change that.
Likewise, the advocacy that we spearhead on Constantine’s behalf is constant. We push for inclusion on the local and community level and we feel fortunate to live in a state and attend a school district that prioritizes the needs of children with all abilities and neuro-diversities. Still, our work continues to fill pockets of ignorance and erase the idea of perceived limitations.
The recent Oscar win for Best Short Film, An Irish Goodbye, starring 3-21 actor, James Martin, is a great example of what seems to be an evolving cultural mindset.
Constantine’s extra chromosome is a gift!
Danny: Constantine is caring, loving, passionate and has an entertaining personality. This is why we call him ‘King Constantine.’
Read more about Maria and The North County Moms here.