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The Joy of Raising a Child with Down Syndrome – Interview with Lia Tabatadze

This is the story of the strong and successful Lia Tabatadze, the chairman of the Georgian Down Syndrome Association and Director of Babale. She shared with us about her personal experiences, her own family and the goal of changing similar families’ lives for the better.

Tell us about your family.

I have two children, 9-year-old Datuna and 8-year-old Teodora, who was born with Down syndrome. My parents help me raise them. Teodora is now in the first grade and is a happy pupil, very diligent, she loves her classmates a lot, who give her love and attention. As their mother is very busy, they are raised practically without a parent on a daily basis, but that small amount of time I spend with them is very productive and belongs fully to them. I’m worried every single second they spend without me, and I think about it often: maybe I’ve chosen the wrong way and they would prefer to have a housewife mom, but they respond with the opposite verbally, as well as in action. They both study very well, they are independent, brave and like their active, hard-working mother. I’m a role model to them and I find my character in my children. They are good friends, feel good when they are together and support each other. Teodora has learned a lot from her brother, and Datuna has gained qualities from her.

What has changed in your life since Teodora’s birth, and what skills have you developed? 

My life changed from the day I became the mother of my first child. I thought I had information about the peculiarities of child development, as I was a gutsy and active mother who observed every stage of my child’s development precisely. The birth of my second child also changed my life, since it turned out that everything I knew was a drop in the sea and I found myself in a vacuum, as I knew nothing about Down syndrome. Since the day her diagnosis was confirmed, I have kept learning and growing with my children. I do my best not just for my child, but to support other people with a Down syndrome diagnosis at every stage of their lives by empowering their families and protecting their rights.

Nowadays I’m a leader of Georgian Down Syndrome Association and the director of the social enterprise Babale. All this is the result of diligence and tireless days.  I am a strong woman today, empowered with information and almost impossible to scare with challenges. I’ve solved hard tasks successfully, because I have a huge amount of motivation and faith that everything will change in Georgia and that our children will be ordinary citizens in regard to their rights and possibilities. I’ve dedicated myself to achieving this aim, and seeing small or large results gives me more motivation to not stop before achieving the final goal. Most importantly, I’m not alone, as the association’s founders and member parents have created a big and powerful team who share these views and have begun an irreversible process.

This surely is a very important process. Tell us more about your daughter’s character, what is Teodora’s favorite activity? 

Teodora loves to paint and does it really well. I gave her a brush and pencil from 5-6 months old and used to help her draw lines, in order to develop her motor skills. It became a part of her life; she draws everything, especially the spaces where she spends her time. The main topics of her art are school, classmates and family.

What do you learn from her on a daily basis?

I learn unconditional love at every stage of personal development. It’s like I was born and raised with her, since I learned how hard it is to start walking, use the bathroom, brush her teeth and every skill she has already developed. We have to go through all these with effort, as if I am a whole new person and every single success she has is also my own.

Most importantly, she taught me how diverse the universe is: there are no similar leaves, there are no similar people, we are all significant. Although this is normal, we should receive every person the way she is and never try to change her, as we can only change the environment and adjust to her if necessary.

What advice would you give to other people who have a loved one with Down syndrome? What would you like people to know about your child?

To every person who has a child with Down syndrome, I would advise to accept the way that child is and confess her condition to herself first. Be open to speaking about your child and Down syndrome to everyone who’s interested in this information, as it is authentic and real to hear it from a parent, and this can decrease the spread of myths about the syndrome. It will help family members communicate with their surroundings, and what’s most important: this communication can simplify the process of helping a child find acceptance from the public.

It is important for families to communicate with one another and exchange information, strategies and feelings, as no friend can offer this support. Parents should never give up, should believe in their child’s possibilities and help her develop, starting from the first hours of birth in a positive environment. The results will come soon, as a child who was at first stressful will bring numerous happy and unforgettable moments. Each family will find out that they are chosen to receive such happiness, as special families.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

By Nina Gomarteli

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