Matthew and Kristen De Waal
Own Business and Teacher
Age of parents:
45 and 42
Age: 14 years
Is this your only child? No, Daniel has the most awesome younger sister Megan, age 10.
Diagnosis of child: Daniel has Down Syndrome, with that comes low muscle tone and some intellectual challenges.
What are the biggest challenges facing your child on a daily basis?
Daniel is aware of his difficulties, it breaks my heart to see him struggling to find friends and a social space. He is envious of his sister and wishes he could do the same things as her. Puberty has been a challenge for him, and he gets depressed easily. His moods can be volatile. Keeping up with his personal hygiene is also a challenge.
What are the happiest moments you have with your child on a daily basis?
Daniel is a great kid, full of laughs and hugs. He brings so much to our family, it is us who are the lucky ones. Our family is like any other family, except I think we are closer for having had a child like Daniel.
Are you a single parent or married? Married.
Has your special needs child had an effect on your marriage?
All marriages require effort and time. We have grown a lot - together and as individuals. Daniel’s condition and the worries that come with it have brought out the best and worst in us. We try to keep as ‘normal’ a family life as possible. We have needed counselling as a couple and as a family to find the best ways of working through the very real issues that our family face. It has benefited all of us.
What has your child taught you about yourself, both positively and negatively?
Daniel reminds me how important it is to have different people with different views and abilities in this world. I’m so proud that he is my son. He is one of the wisest people I know, he reminds me of how important values like kindness and loyalty are. His challenges have asked me to be be brave, daring, creative and to be kind to myself. I have never known a more forgiving person in my life. A quality I admire more than any others. There are negative aspects to having a child like Daniel, the demands can be relentless and I have lost my patience many times with him. Something I am not proud of.
Are your family and friends supportive?
We have great friends and a big family with lots of cousins. As my nephews have gotten older they don’t want to hang with Daniel so much. So I bribe them :). I get it, Daniel can be difficult and he is very immature, he doesn’t always manage to follow the rules or pass the ball well. His cousins mean so much to him that a few innocent bribes go a long way in keeping all the kids connected. Daniel also has some very cool toys that his cousins like playing with. Sometimes we have to think outside the box when it comes to keeping Daniel socialising.
Do you take time out, if so what do you do to relax?
As many short weekends away that we can afford, Daniel is expensive to educate so money is tight.
What has made the biggest difference to your child’s quality of life?
Good schooling, keeping him healthy. Trying our hardest to create a normal and interesting life for him that stimulates and gives him purpose. To instill in him how valuable he is in this world, to hear his thoughts and for him to always know just how loved he is, for who he is.
What is your dream for your child?
I hope one day Daniel meets a lovely girl and we the parents create an independent living space for them. Daniel has every right to live an independent life, he has the right to be educated and loved. And his family are right behind him in supporting his choices.