At only 11-years-old, Nora’s life story is already full of triumph and success. Following Nora’s Down syndrome diagnosis, her family came to Northwest Center in search of a daycare and early learning program that could also offer her early intervention services.
“It’s the only place in Seattle that actually had that and it was really important for our family,” recalls Nora’s mom, Marti. At 4-months-old Nora began attending Northwest Center Kids, an inclusive program where children with and without disabilities learn and play together. But Nora still had more to show the world that she could overcome.
Shortly after starting at the school, Nora developed a debilitating seizure disorder and she was no longer able to lift her head, mover her arms or nurse. Though they were able to treat the seizures, the heavy doses of medication eventually compromised her immune system to the point that she was no longer able to leave home.
“She had intensive treatment for the seizures for many years and during that time frame the staff at Northwest Center was just instrumental in helping us navigate through that dreadful time in our life,” says Marti.
Northwest Center’s Early Intervention team continued to see Nora, coming to her home to work with her, until the fragility of her immune system finally prevented them from visiting her there as well. Though she was able to eventually decrease and later stop her seizure medication and return to Northwest Center Kids, there was uncertainty about what effect the spasms and medicine had had on her development.
“She came into my classroom, just beginning to sit up; she was fed with a bottle and some solid foods,” recalls Nora’s teacher, Donna Starkey. “It went so quickly from that to walking with assistance, crawling up and down stairs, pulling herself up onto tables and climbing gyms. She was eating meals on her own and sitting in regular chairs.”
During transitions from activity to activity, Starkey recalls Nora crawling out the door to the bench where her friends sat. She knew the classroom routine so well that she would crawl to the sink, climb up the stool, and turn on the water to wash her hands in preparation for lunch.
“Nora is spunky and has a twinkle in her eye,” Starkey says. “She would set her mind on what she wanted and follow through. Nora always has a smile on her face, loving life.”
But for Nora’s parents, the amazing change was not only in their daughter’s development but in their own perception of the potential of inclusion.
“One thing about the program, which is so amazing, is that you have typical kids learning next to kids with disabilities. They learn from each other and that inclusion was a revolutionary concept for us â€“ to see kids that could run and jump and play with our daughter who could not. It was just meaningful for us to see that,” says Marti.
But more than simply children playing together, Northwest Center Kids offered Nora’s parents the opportunity to see the potential for their daughter’s future.
“I think it was also important for us to see the adults with disabilities working at the center. We saw what it could be like for Nora-that she could be a contributing part of the community, coming to work every day and it gave us a sense of what her future could be. We want Nora to have a dream job. We want to have her go to school or go to work every day, be valued, and be excited about going to work. That’s our dream for her,” says Nora’s dad, Rik.
Nora continued to attend Northwest Center Kids through Kindergarten. Now at 11-year-old, she is a middle school student with a passion for music and dance and a future that is limitless.
“She’s a fantastic testament to what it takes to do work every day, continue and just keep up with the fight,” says Marti.
Our services for children provide early intervention, inclusive early childhood education, and after school programs. For more information about Northwest Center Kids and how you can get involved, contact us.
This story was originally published as part of Northwest Center's 50th anniversary project: 50 Stories Worth Sharing
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.