Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Guest Blogger: Ashley Tillinghast

Meet ASHLEY & WILLOW:
Ashley is Mama to Willow, who has Down syndrome. Ashley, her husband Stephen and Willow live in a small town in Northern California.

Willow is a beautiful 10 month old baby girl-- full of smiles and laughs! She is very empathetic, has a great sense of humor, and loves to experience new things.
Ashley's words:

"Our birth and diagnosis story has definitely had the most impact on me so far in our journey with Down Syndrome. I just finished putting it all to words over on my blog- so instead, I'd like to share something that I've learned this past year that I feel really passionate about: the importance of language. We received Willow's diagnosis when she was 2 weeks old- and honestly, I had never thought about Down Syndrome before. I was so uninformed about the diagnosis, and was so scared about what that meant for my girl. Because I was a fresh mama, (those first few weeks/months are so emotionally and physically intense) I sort of just 'went with the wave' of pediatricians and nurses advice and input on Down Syndrome. And... it wasn't very positive input. As I started to get to know my new baby girl- I realized she wasn't anything like they told me she 'should be'. She was much more than 'Down Syndrome' in every way possible- she was beautiful, she was determined, she was strong, and she was fierce. When you start out at 3 pounds, I think you've got to be a little fierce! Advocating for 'People First Language' has been the area that has meant the most to me so far on our journey: language is so powerful and important! I've heard my daughter referred to as the "Down's Baby" or the "Special Needs Baby", rather than, "A baby who has Down syndrome". She is so much more than her diagnosis- and it's important to recognize people before their diagnosis/abilities, in the way that we speak about all people. "Words are powerful; Old, inaccurate, and inappropriate descriptors perpetuate negative stereotypes and attitudinal barriers. When we describe people by their labels of medical diagnoses, we devalue and disrespect them as individuals." (Taken from https://www.thearc.org) So, I hope to encourage anyone who may read this- to use language carefully. I've linked a website that has some great information on People First Language below if you want to check it out." The Arc People First Language Web Page
How does Willow bring you JOY?

Willow brings me joy each day! It has been so much fun watching her discover how her body moves- she's discovered her fingers and toes- started to bend her knees and use her legs much more, and is even working on sitting up unassisted! I've realized that we have found so much more joy along the journey to get to the milestone- than evaluating which milestone's she's meeting. She also has the most incredible laugh, which brings me unmatched joy each and every day!

Thank you so much for sharing, Ashley! To follow Ashley & Willow visit her BLOG or INSTA.

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