'Céadan is our little boy with an extra chromosome', says mum whose family features in Down syndrome booklet

'Céadan is our little boy with an extra chromosome', says mum whose family features in Down syndrome booklet
Ceadan Blake (far right) with his mum Vanessa Galligan and Seana O'Hanlon (3) from Bayside with her mum Ciara O'Hanlon in St Stephens Green, Dublin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall

Vanessa Galligan screamed when her son, Céadan Blake, was diagnosed with Down syndrome just 20 minutes after he was born.

“The diagnosis came as a complete shock to me. I regret how I reacted but I was sad and upset. I did not know what I know now,” said Vanessa.

Her partner, David, was dumb-struck when they received the diagnosis but when they held Céadan in their arms their love for him was overwhelming.

“Now I know that Céadan is our little boy with an extra chromosome. He is no different,” said Vanessa.

The couple from Lucan, Co Dublin, who are parents to four children, feature in a booklet for parents with a pre or postnatal diagnosis of Down syndrome for their baby.

Down Syndrome Ireland is launching the booklet '...more than medical' tomorrow, World Down Syndrome Day.

Vanessa said Céadan, who is almost two years old, has a hearing loss but otherwise was a very healthy little boy.

'Céadan is our little boy with an extra chromosome', says mum whose family features in Down syndrome booklet

“All of the family are learning Lámh, a manual sign system. Céadan learned to wave last week and it was just amazing,” said Vanessa.

“He is more than a good-humoured child; he is hilarious. He is laughing from the moment he wakes up every morning. He is in mainstream creche now and is flying. They all love him.”

Vanessa said people's attitude to children with Down syndrome had to change.

“My attitude as a mammy has done a complete 360-degree turn. It is not like we thought it would be. People like my son live completely fulfilled lives; they have careers.

“Céadan is a happy, funny, crazy little boy that just happens to have Down syndrome. He is not any different and he is not treated any differently in our family. We have the same routine at home as we always did and life pretty much goes on as normal.”

Down syndrome is one of the most commonly occurring genetic conditions and it is currently estimated that there are 7,000 people in Ireland who have it.

President of Down Syndrome Ireland, Mary Doherty, said it wanted to provide an insight into the realities of family life with a baby, child, teenager or adult with Down syndrome in Ireland today.

“As many parents of children with Down syndrome know, there is an abundance of medical information about the condition but not a lot which provides real insight into the realities of having a child with Down syndrome, and we wanted to change that."

The charity developed the booklet with Rebekah Docherty and Michelle Clark from Lose the Label CIC that is changing perceptions about life with Down's Syndrome in Britain.

The booklet and an accompanying video are available to view and download on the Down Syndrome Ireland website – www.downsyndrome.ie.

Meanwhile, Cork Airport has introduced a discreet identification scheme for passengers with disabilities that are not immediately apparent.

The sunflower lanyard, available at the OCS desk at Cork Airport, is recognised in key global airports including Heathrow.

It provides those with hidden disabilities with the opportunity to avail of additional support if needed.

Cork Airport is the first airport in the Republic of Ireland to introduce it.

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