The simple answer is we wanted to demystify what is like to have a child with Down syndrome; to show that Jonathan really is a blessing. We wanted to encourage parents, and to educate children. Sometimes someone says it better than you could ever say it yourself.
Katie Routzahn is a elementary school counselor in Virgina. She also has 5-month old twins, Avery and Jack, who are absolutely beautiful! (trust me on this) Avery has Down syndrome. We received this email from Katie a few weeks ago:
I wanted to let you know how much I LOVE Deedah! I ordered the DVD when my babies were only a few weeks old, because I saw a preview online when I was doing some research. I thought it would be perfect to have in the future for Jack. My husband and I have watched it numerous times together, and have show it to our family members. Down syndrome is something new to our immediate family and many of our friends, and this was a perfect resource. We have laughed and cried and experienced a wide range of emotions due to this video.
I returned to my job as an Elementary School Counselor 3 weeks ago. I am still trying to find my balance between home and work, but we are all hanging in! This is my 3rd Friday and I am feeling somewhat human at the end of this week… so that is a GREAT sign! Prior to my return I shared the news of my babies with my school community so when I came back many of my students had questions about Down syndrome. It became quite clear to me that showing them Deedah was the perfect answer! My school district is also taking a big stand on bullying prevention as part of our classroom lesson curriculum this year so I was able to tie the two topics together perfectly! By the end of the day today I will have shown Deedah to 12 classes that range between 20-28 kids each. I have 4 more classes that will watch it next week.
Jonathan and Charlotte are total movie stars at Lovettsville Elem.!!! My students and teachers LOVE the video!!! The 5th graders I just left clapped at the end of the video and then again when I left the class…. they all want to buy the video. Several students this week were convinced that Jonathan rode their bus (no… we don’t have and students with Ds), and some swear they have seen your family at the Costco in Leesburg, VA. I told them that you all live in GA :-), and then it was pointed out to me that maybe you were visiting family or friends.. haha! Deedah has sparked such great conversation and awareness for both Ds and bullying prevention. I am just thrilled you all have produced such an awesome resource
I have told the kids I follow your blog and was able to tell them all about Jonathan’s new hair cut, cub scouts, and how well he is doing this year in school.
My husband and I love our kids so much and have committed ourselves to educating and advocating for our daughter and other people with Down syndrome. I can not even begin to tell you the positive impact your family has had on us in such a short amount of time. This is a whole new world to us and we are doing our best to prepare for wherever it will take us over the years!
Thank you for all that the May family has done. Please know that Katie, Evan, Jack & Avery Routzahn are going to be doing their best to make a positive difference as well.
Wow! Then a week ago, we received this update:
Just wanted to send you a follow up e-mail to give you an update on the impact “Deedah” has had on my elementary school! So I showed the video to 16 2nd-5th grade classes during one of my bi-weekly classroom guidance lessons. When I started on my next lesson rotation every class I visited asked me if we were going to watch “Deedah” again?? When I told them we were not going to rewatch at this point because we had to move on to our required bullying prevention unit I got some boos from the kids. They LOVE “Deedah”! Some kids have told me they have checked out your website with their parents to show them what we learned (I also included the link in a recent school newsletter), others have asked if they can take my dvd home to share with family members, and some ask me for Jonathan and Charlotte updates since I mentioned I read your blog. It is funny to hear the kids talk because they act like they know your kids just from watching the dvd
Some parent volunteers happened to be in a classroom I was showing the video and they all loved the video and have told other parents about “Deedah”.
Several parents have stopped by my office or grabbed me walking in the hallway to ask if they can check out my copy of the dvd. I knew people would enjoy the video, but I had no idea the overwhelming impact it would have on my school community. It is my sincere hope that these students and families will continue to educate others and promote Down syndrome awareness. Thank you for taking the time to create such an awesome resource!!! Jonathan, Avery and so many others will benefit from your hard work!
My last class today was a 5th grade class… it has been a crazy week… and they had a substitute teacher. When I went in to teach several hands shot up in the air asking if we could watch “Deedah” again? When I told them we had to move on… they just kept asking and talking. It was craziness! So I figured oh well what is a few minutes off of our planned lesson and I showed them the video
you posted from the Buddy Walk. The kids were so excited, and several of them have already asked me if they can walk with Avery’s team next year. I can’t tell you how much I needed this encouragement and excitement from others this afternoon.
Hope all is well with your family!
We didn’t set out to make Charlotte and Jonathan movie stars (perhaps we didn’t think that one through very well.) We did hope the DVD would give support and hope to parents who have learned they are going to have, or have just learned they do have, a child with Down syndrome. We are thrilled it hit the mark with Katie and her husband.
We also have a vision of every elementary student learning about Down syndrome in a positive way. That each child sees that children with Down syndrome are just like other kids, that they have all the same dreams and needs, but simply a little different path.
Katie has returned to us the greatest gift: using Deedah to educate children about Down syndrome, and helping us change a generation of children. We continue to be amazed and overwhelmed by all the passionate parents and advocates who are taking Deedah to schools, to doctors and to others who will impact our children’s future.
Thanks Katie! And congratulations on your two bundles of joy.
I Love you, Sissy