Homeschool Corner

My down syndrome blessing

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If you visit SchoolhouseTeachers.com, you may recognize Evonne Mandella as the video instructor. We talked to Evonne about her daughter, Eliya Joy.

TOS: Tell us about your beautiful daughter, Eliya Joy.

Evonne: I gave birth to Eliya Joy Mandella on February 14, 2015, and we were told she has Down syndrome or Trisomy 21. I tried to make sense of it, and thought, “How can the Lord use this?” And then I thought, “I’m going to chronicle her life … make a video blog.” As a mom, I’d watch YouTube videos of kids with Down syndrome, and I wanted to see success stories. A lot of what you read when you find out your child has Down syndrome is extremely negative. But I kept hearing the reality of who your child is, is a thousand times different than what you read online.

When she was born, doctors said, “You’re going to be going to the special needs hospital and having her heart worked on.” But a lot of the intensive care was actually precautionary, and a few days later we were home, and we never had to go to a heart doctor. We never had to go to the hospital. She’s been perfectly healthy; praise the Lord.

But from what I was reading, I was scared out of my mind. Then I realized this is no different from my other children except her eyes have a beautiful upward slant. It’s really an identical experience. The only time I got discouraged was when I would read things from more evolutionary-type minds—what a lot of the medical community is. You’re reading about mistakes, genetic mutations. I was told this was a genetic defect. You just had this beautiful new baby, and you’re being told everywhere it’s a defect. It messes with your faith a bit. But the reality of this wonderful child is in front of you. The reality is the exact opposite.

TOS: Do people misunderstand Down syndrome?

Evonne: A lot of people associate Down syndrome with assuming the child is slow. Medically, they say mental retardation. I don’t think you can assume that because there are Downs people with normal IQs. Each person has immense worth because God created them. I get frustrated when people assume my child can’t do something, like she doesn’t have fine motor skills. My child can feed herself a bottle with her feet while she’s playing with a toy. People don’t treat each child individually. They lump them into a category. They’re not the Down’s child. They’re a child. I prefer using “Trisomy 21” because that just means she has an extra chromosome. It’s not a disease. You say Down syndrome, and people start getting a picture in their mind, and I want them to just see my daughter.

TOS: Are you seeing a Down’s syndrome movement?

Evonne: You’re seeing a lot of people saying we’re more alike than different. We want to be integrated into society. There are some reality TV shows showing that people with Down syndrome marry. They have careers. They live on their own. And Walmart and Target are using models who have Down syndrome. There’s a big campaign to use those models. They’re not advertising “disabled” products. They’re in typical ads like their typical counterparts. I think (advertisers) are trying to see beauty in features that are different. I want people to envision my daughter, if the Lord wills, marrying and having a career. I want people to not just assume this is a death sentence.

TOS: Any final thoughts?

Evonne: We strongly feel that God made her this way—that He knit her together perfectly. I encourage anybody who has a diagnosis prenatally to know God didn’t fall asleep. He’s perfectly in this. We waited eight years for our last baby. And we finally got pregnant with our miracle baby, and everybody’s telling you about the “defects.” And you start thinking, “God are you in this?” The Lord showed me and my husband very quickly, “I made her. I did this. She’s put together this way for a reason.” He is going to use this for His glory.

TOS: Thank you, Evonne, for sharing your story!


Biographical information

Kathleen Conway is a freelance editor for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Virginia and Master of Arts in Mass Communications from the University of Georgia. She spent 20 years as a writer, producer and reporter for CNN and HLN (formerly Headline News). She’s married to KC, has two stepdaughters, Katie, 21, and Grace, 16, and a 6-year-old son named Luke. They live in Lilburn, Georgia, outside of Atlanta.

Evonne Mandella is the mom of three amazing blessings and is married to the love of her life! Evonne likes to combine faith and fun! She is the creator of dozens of popular ROKU television channels and enjoys encouraging families with wholesome, creative entertainment. Come and join the adventure! You can find out about her family’s inspiring adventures by installing “Our Down Syndrome Channel” with your ROKU streaming device.

Copyright 2016 The Old Schoolhouse® used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the TOS Magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com, or read it on the go by downloading the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read it on your mobile devices.