Additional Needs, Inc. all started with one question to a friend, “Do you know of a place or an activity I can volunteer for?” The answer, “yes” started me on my additional needs journey. I started to volunteer for Art Fest Naples which benefited individuals with autism and their families that received services from Eden of Florida. As I was getting to know the individuals and their families two of the families made a lasting impression on me. I learned this is not just a journey for the families with additional needs, it’s a journey for society as a whole. The Kandels and the Stanleys shared their stories with me and how they’ve been advocating for their children with autism along with sharing resources with other families.
Year after year with the art fest, I got more and more involved with putting the show together as well as learning more of what the families needed and wanted for their children. One of my side goals was to find ways for individuals to gain meaningful employment. This is one of the biggest concerns for families. Within just a few years I became the logistics director and a year after that our son Jack was born. The pregnancy went very well and we thought all was set for a natural childbirth.
On the day that Cynthia went into labor that all changed. Jack’s heart rate started to drop with each contraction Cynthia experienced and our doctor told us they were going to need to do a C-section. This was the last thing we wanted. Throughout the pregnancy Cynthia worked with alternative medicine practitioners. Receiving this news, Cynthia called up a practitioner-friend who rushed to the hospital to assist in making a natural delivery possible. The practitioner helped with Jack’s heart rate and Cynthia had the natural birth she desired. From the moment Cynthia saw Jack she thought he was with Down syndrome. She told this to me later and said she saw it in his eyes. The funny thing is that afternoon, after Jack was born, I went to walk our dog and as I looked into the rearview mirror and saw his eyes in mine. All I could think was he has my eyes! I had no clue that Jack was with Down syndrome.
It wasn’t until our first pediatric visit that our doctor made us aware of the possibility of Jack having a heart issue and being with Down syndrome. A week and a day after delivery, we found out that Jack’s heart rhythm had changed. We had to meet with the pediatric cardiologist immediately. Forty five minutes later we met Dr. Lowell. It was through that cardiologist visit that it was confirmed, Jack was with Down syndrome and that he was going to need heart surgery ASAP.
In my desperation, I went into learning mode. That entailed hours upon hours on the computer searching about Down syndrome and the resources that our area had or didn’t have. I was doing this in the middle of the night, neglecting my own sleep and checking on our son every half an hour to make sure he was breathing ok. What frustrated me most was that doing a search for information was very difficult and time consuming. So, I began bookmarking sites that I found helpful but very hard to find. I then thought back to the Kandel and Stanley families and how they always shared what they had learned. I thought I would do the same by building a website that had all the resources for individuals with Down syndrome in the Collier County area on it. I thought the best way for people to find it was to name it DownsyndromeNaples.com. It was that simple. now there were located on one site.
From day one I wanted to have a site that covered all resources for additional needs but at the time of building DownsyndromeNaples.com I was focused on our son and making sure his surgery went well. It took a few years to get grounded and be able to start on Additional Needs, Inc. Now here we are! Building a company that has all the resources and tools to assist individuals with additional needs in reaching their full potential. All run by individuals with additional needs in every state. Jack is doing well and I hope if he wants, one day will run Additional Needs, Inc.