Monday, February 23, 2009

Nevada moms head to DC to lobby for services for people with Down syndrome

From the intro to a feature in Reno Gazette Journal. In the picture, Far left, Theresa Grant and her son, Elliott, 11. Middle back, Mary Bryant and her daughter, Kailin Kelderman, 14. Right, Colette McKenzie and her son, Caleb, 5. These Reno moms will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to educate politicians about the programs and policies for people with Down syndrome.

Reno mom Colette McKenzie doesn't look like a typical lobbyist.
She probably won't sound like one either when she's in Washington, D.C. next week to meet with members of the Nevada Congressional delegation to educate politicians
about the programs and policies for people with Down syndrome.

McKenzie, president of the Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada, will speak from the heart when she talks about programs and resources for people who have disabilities.

"It's so important that cuts don't hurt people with disabilities,"McKenzie said.

When she hears about possible cuts, she worries about her son Caleb's future.

Caleb is 5, and in kindergarten two days a week. Caleb is part of a new generation of integrating kids with Down syndrome into regular classrooms. Awareness, acceptance and education have made graduating from high school and even going on to college the norm for children with Down syndrome.

It's something McKenzie hopes isn't hurt by budget cuts.

Already because of the budget crunch affecting the Washoe County School District, Caleb is one of the first kids with Down syndrome to not have a teacher's aide with him in a regular classroom.

"He's doing fine, but I think that down the road it might be something we'd want to have available," McKenzie said. "I think everything shows that early intervention helps kids with disabilities not be a burden on the government later in life," McKenzie said.