Gary and Sarah Rogers
Gary is an engineering services manager and Sarah is a life coach
Age of parents:
39 and 37
Age: 6 years
Is this your only child? Yes we have a daughter, her name is Calla (8)! A beautiful fiery red head!
Diagnosis of child: Down Syndrome
What are the biggest challenges facing your child on a daily basis?
That is a great question! It varies. At a broader level it is all about inclusion, making sure that Oliver has the same opportunities as our daughter. We are so grateful to be a part of a community that loves him for who he is. Our community embraces our journey, supports and loves us and encourages him in his love of music (an eclectic mix of worship and Taylor Swift!) food, and imaginative play. The daily challenges for Oliver are more around his expressive communication. One of his biggest struggles is motor planning, so he struggles to verbalise his needs and desires. He has an incredible speech therapist who works with him to assist and we work with him daily at home to increase his ability. We have come such a long way, but I can definitely see when he is frustrated because he cannot communicate as effectively as his sister.
What are the happiest moments you have with your child on a daily basis?
It ranges from cuddles first thing in the morning; those sleepy cuddles are the absolute best; to laughing and singing on the way to school, to watching him grow in ability and independence (although that last one is a little hard for me, because it seems to be happening so quickly)! There is a myth that people with Down Syndrome are always happy (which is definitely not true – come and visit when I turn 'How to train your dragon off'). The way that Oliver engages with life; his joy and how he reads people and situations is absolutely incredible.
Are you a single parent or married? I am married to an amazing man!
Has your special needs child had an effect on your marriage?
If anything it has made us stronger. The uncertainty at the beginning of our journey, I think had the potential to put a strain on our relationship. We intentionally make time for each other, make time for ourselves and make time to spend one on one time with each of the kids. What has really been the catalyst to a great marriage is very clear communication of where we are at. If there is something we are struggling with we get it out in the open. That allows the other partner to pick up the slack and take control. We hold space for each other, we co-parent with equal responsibility. I travel a lot for my work and my husband is incredible. By no means do we get it right all the time, but we do try really hard to prioritise our marriage.
What has your child taught you about yourself, both positively and negatively?
Wow, another great question! For me personally, Oliver’s birth reminded me of my intent and my purpose of making an impact on the world. I ended up, for many years in a corporate job, which was amazing, but I didn’t feel grounded or that I was making the impact I wanted, I was seeking. Once Ollie was born I had a moment where I thought to myself it was now or never. So I left corporate to open my own life coaching practice. Over the past 6 years I have learned many incredible lessons. We can choose to step into our plans and purposes or we can choose to stay in our comfort zones.
Through parenting a differently abled child I have learned that life can throw curveballs, but I have learned how resilient we are.
I have learned how to harness imagination and creativity not only for my benefit but for my family and my clients.
I have learned how comparison can steal the joy right out of your heart!
I have learned that the journey is where life happens. That being present and grateful are the foundational building blocks of a happy life.
I have learned that I was living life to quickly and that we needed to slow down. We used to say in God’s time in our house, now we say in Oliver’s time ?
I have learned how to fight for Oliver’s needs both in a social and a medical setting! This has been a big challenge! We have a wonderful pediatrician and GP and through the years we now have a medical support system that understands us as a family. But it has been hard work to find people who we trust and who understand our needs.
Are your family and friends supportive?
Absolutely. We are surrounded by family and friends who don’t judge him for what he can’t do and who celebrate him for what he can do. They support and love my daughter. They encourage and motivate us! We could not do this without the love and support of the community around us.
Do you take time out, if so what do you do to relax?
Yes absolutely. My husband loves movies and he is currently building his own car! Those are his outlets. I love reading, listening to podcasts and just having quiet time. Our family's love language is quality time and we are intentional about making sure that we fill that need. It is difficult to find this time because life is so busy and running a business means that my hours are strange and long. In the short term we may not be able to get this balance right, for whatever reason, however, it is something we work towards.
What has made the biggest difference to your child’s quality of life?
In the abstract, it is the fact that we were able to adjust ‘quickly’ to him and his needs. At a broader level, it is the support we receive from our community. Practically, his school, Khanyisa Therapy Centre, who believe in him and push him academically to be his best. Right now noise cancelling headphones allow us to go to places where Ollie would easily get overwhelmed. It is so helpful in places like big shopping centres, movies and even church.
What is your dream for your child?
My dream for both my children is the same: but I will focus on Oliver. I want him to be happy. He is too young to know what that practically means in terms of passions and jobs. But the focus is always about my children’s happiness. If he cannot find employment due to the diagnosis we will build a business for him to run, to manage or to work in.
I want him to be included.
I want him to find fulfilment.
I want him to find someone to love and share his life with.
I want him to experience life to the fullest.
I don’t want him to hold himself back.