Down Syndrome Support Group for Hispanic Families

May 5, 2015

Any child, up to the age of three, with a certain level of developmental delay, difference in development, and/or a diagnosed condition may receive early intervention support and services. Early Intervention services include but are not limited to physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, developmental services, and service coordination.

It has been five years since Grafton became the lead agency for providing early intervention services in the Shenandoah Valley. Last year, Grafton’s Infant and Toddler Connection supported more than 545 children and their families with these services, and since we provide them in the family’s home, we have also had the opportunity to learn more about our clients’ day to day needs.

Supports and services occur in the context of, and are integrated into, the normal daily activities, routines, and environments of each child and family. They fit into the family’s life and build effectively on the resources and supports already in place.

The purpose of early intervention is to increase a child’s participation in family and community activities and to support the family in identifying learning opportunities, while enhancing the child’s development.

Parents already do things to teach their children everyday—they are the primary agent of change in their child’s development and the experts on their child and family. Early intervention service providers add their specialized skills and knowledge and work as a team with parents and other caregivers to identify and use existing learning opportunities and create new ones, as needed, to address the outcomes that the family and Part C providers have developed together.

As a service coordinator serving the Hispanic families throughout the entire service area, I became aware of a growing need for support among those raising a child with Down syndrome. While a Down Syndrome Support Group in the community already existed, I recognized that I had to do something different for Spanish speaking families.

These families seem to feel more isolated, as if no one in their community or circle could understand them. Many lived within a few feet of each other and yet had not ventured out to discover they had a neighbor who also had a child with Down syndrome.

On April 14, 2015, I hosted the first Down Syndrome support group at the Winchester Medical Center. I sent out invitations to my active families and announced the event to local community agencies and local pediatricians. The networking opportunity was a huge success! Five families from the community were able to meet, connect, and most importantly, talk about their experiences.

Taking the cultural component into consideration proved a key factor contributing to the group’s success. Putting these families into the existing support group with an interpreter just wouldn’t have been the same.

I saw an opportunity to make a difference in our community, and I’m so glad that Grafton supported my vision and I know the families are too. Families are excited about the next parent support group, scheduled on June 28.

For more information on Virginia’s early intervention supports and services, please visit