Down Syndrome Parent Support Group of Genesee County, Inc. Turns 30!

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Arc of Genesee Orleans Board Member Deb Riggi and daughters Cassidy and Masha

Arc of Genesee Orleans Board Member Deb Riggi and daughters Cassidy and Masha

             It all started several years ago, before services for those with Down Syndrome were widespread. Several parents started the Down Syndrome Parent Support Group of Genesee County, Inc (DSPSG) to bond together, to have someone to talk to, to support each other during their journey. The group has evolved to serve the GLOW region and offers New Parent Packets, Family Reimbursement, National Conferences Scholarships, Scholarships to High School Seniors and more to its member families.

             “I have been a part of DSPSG for 28 years,” said Dawn Fisher, President of DSPSG. “There are a lot of different experiences that we have to deal with as parents which other people do not, but learning how to handle these experiences and grow as a person and as a parent…it really broadens your view of the world. You see what is and what is not important.”

             “We hold family events so that our families can get together,” Fisher explained. “We chat, give each other encouragement and advice. As we go through the different stages in our children’s lives, we have different needs, and our children have different needs, as well. We also hold meetings, have guest speakers who discuss the importance of having a special needs trust as well as how important it is to plan future care for our children, stipends for our family members to go to different conferences and workshops that are provided in the area. Additionally, we offer two scholarships to GLOW area High School seniors who would like to further their education in a field that works with individuals with special needs.”

             “We have also provided hospitals and pediatrician's offices in the GLOW area with new parent packages about having a child with Down Syndrome,” said Fisher. “Parents and caregivers can use this as a tool and are given contact information to connect with our member families. Often, it is a shock to learn that a newborn has Down syndrome, and having someone to speak with and provide support and encouragement is key. Information about early intervention is also provided, as early intervention is vital for the baby's growth and development, as well as giving additional support to the parents.”

             This includes changing perspectives. “We want to change the old stigma,” explained Fisher. “So, one of the things we do is go out and speak at area colleges, public events and provide opportunities for people with DS to interact publicly and actively in community life whether it be with students in schools or elsewhere in the community.”

             This year, DSPSG celebrates its 30th anniversary. Fisher hopes those with DS will continue to receive more opportunities and more acceptance from those around them. “I encourage people to really include individuals with DS and give them the same opportunities as everyone else in the community,” she said. “Give them the opportunity to show their potential and value them as contributing members in their communities. Also, show your support for their parents and other caregivers. They play a vitally important role.”

             Fisher also said DSPSG will continue to advocate for those with DS. “We certainly need to embrace families with DS members, regardless of the person’s age,” she explained. “We should continue to support those with DS and provide more opportunities for them as they transition into adulthood as well as throughout their adult years. I believe we really need to work on this transition piece and provide greater opportunities for adults with DS and other special needs.”

             The community does seem very supportive. “We are truly blessed because the community is very generous,” said Fisher. “We have had so many local businesses which actively donate to our Annual Autumn Leaves Auction each year. We are really lucky in that aspect.

             DSPSG plans to continue to pursue its mission to provide opportunities for persons with Down syndrome and their families to engage productively and actively in community life for the next thirty years and beyond. “We always welcome new members and new families!” said Fisher.

             To learn more about DSPSG, visit their Facebook page or their website at

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