We would like to introduce Alexander.

Alexander is an inquisitive, healthy and a happy five-year-old boy who loves playing, music, dancing and cooking. He adores and looks up to his older sister, Emily and they are always cheering each other on.

Alexander has taught us that things we take for granted like walking, fine motor activities, and talking can be a challenge for someone who has Down syndrome. We now know it takes dedication, determination from the child and family, and hours of additional specialized support from professionals to reach these milestones. But most importantly he has shown us that he is motivated to learn and he continues to excel at his own pace.

We have personally experienced the stresses faced by the health and education systems in Saskatchewan. This includes waiting lists and the general workload of a therapist to cover so many children with a variety of abilities. Prior to starting kindergarten Alexander received blocks of speech and then would be put on waiting lists for months at a time before receiving another block. This was challenging because Alexander needed consistent regular speech sessions and specialized strategies. We did resort to private speech therapy while waiting to receive services within the health system, but private speech therapists have waiting lists too, and are costly.

Alexander has had wonderful teachers and support people in school, but faces challenges there as well.

Every child in Saskatchewan deserves the right to have the specialized therapy to help them reach their full potential.

We now recognize our son needs more than we can expect from the school and health systems. Alexander is not speaking yet and became frustrated which resulted in having to start over from the very basics. We attended PREP when Alexander was one. To my regret we did not go back sooner. I have to wonder if things would look different for Alexander at this stage if he had regular access to the specialized therapy that PREP provides. This past year the PREP team has become the specialized resource for Alexander’s private speech in Saskatoon, the school and for us. PREP has taught us to focus on Alexander’s abilities and expand on them when setting goals. We are so grateful for Barbara and her team.

The AIM Program fills a gap in Saskatchewan, just as the PREP program has for 25 years in Alberta. Every child in Saskatchewan deserves to have access to the necessary resources to help them reach their full potential.

Our hopes and dreams for Alexander are the same as they are for our daughter. We want him to be happy and healthy, and to reach his full potential. Barbara and her team made this a reality in Alberta, now it is time for us to make this a reality in Saskatchewan!

We would like to introduce Jacob.

I am the mother to a sweet three year old boy, Jacob. When Jacob was born with Down syndrome, my husband and I had no idea where to begin in our quest as new parents. Our parenting journey began with our daughter Ava who was born two years prior. We both knew that raising Jacob would entail a bit more thought, planning and researching. In the first year of Jacob’s life we embraced every service and therapy that was offered to us. When we started networking with other families, we heard about the PREP program in Calgary. Jacob was two when we decided to visit the centre during a family getaway.

As soon as we walked through the front doors I felt an immediate relief and sense of familiarity. We could see that the therapists approach was from a complete understanding and comprehension of Down syndrome. The people who welcomed us were friendly, knowledgeable and very motivated to assist us with our son’s speech and language development. We got to work immediately and both my husband and I were so grateful by the end of our first session. The SLP was able to evoke sounds from our son that we had never heard from him. He was engaged throughout the entire session and tolerated the therapists’ requests like she had been working with him from the beginning. She showed us tools and techniques that Jacob could understand and apply. She eased our minds and gave us great hope that our son would one day communicate verbally.

Having a program like AIM in Saskatoon, will help many other children with Down Syndrome.

Since then we have visited PREP two more times. We come home with goals and strategies, and most importantly hope. With a program like AIM in Saskatoon, many other children with Down syndrome, province wide, will benefit immensely. We as parents will feel confident in knowing we have given our children the best start in life, and the tools to thrive in society to the best of their ability.

PREP has helped Jacob in his speech challenges and the transition into preschool this fall. They have shown us how to implement a program into our daily routine and have given us the support and knowledge in how to educate others about the best way Jacob learns. PREP has partnered with our family to ensure our hope remains constant and that our son has the best start in life.

We would like to introduce Noah.

Noah is an amazing and bright ten-year old boy with Down syndrome. Since he was very young, he has required a bit of extra help to learn the regular every day things that seemed to come so easily for his older brother, Matthew. Many good services were available to us, and we utilized what we could, but for a long time we did not realize there was a program just a province away that actually specialized in teaching children with Down syndrome.

Noah attends a wonderful elementary school, where the staff do everything they can to help him. But they can’t offer speech therapy on a regular basis, so as we noticed Noah’s speech falling further and further behind his peers, we put him on the waiting list for private therapy over a year ago. Right around the time we finally came to the top of the list, my husband and I learned of The PREP Program and decided we need to see what they could offer.

We spent 3 hours at The PREP Program on our first visit, and I could not believe the difference just a few simple strategies made! We came home from Calgary with a list of strategies and took them to school, where the staff was happy to be provided with something that would work for Noah. Within two months, we had friends and family noticing Noah’s improvement. We had to wonder why we spent 9 years of Noah’s life without these specialized strategies.

Help us bring the specialized and expert services that are available in Alberta to our own province.

I love living in Saskatchewan, and a lot of really great support for Noah is here. But when we consider the brief window that Noah has to learn life-long skills while he is growing and developing, we know that we need the AIM Program to be able to stay. I desperately want to discover the abilities in Noah, and I believe that all children with Down syndrome in Saskatchewan have the right to access a program that will help them each find the abilities within themselves.

Our school system is on the right track including all children in a regular classroom. This has been powerfully educating for both Noah and the friends he attends school with, but I believe inclusion is more than just putting him in the same room as typical children. Inclusion has to be about teaching Noah the skills he needs to succeed in his environment. It also has to be about providing educators access to strategies that will support them. I believe AIM will do just that!

We would like to introduce Sydney.

When our daughter Sydney was just a few months old, we received a letter in the mail from Barbara Tien, speech therapist and Executive Director of The PREP Program, congratulating us on the birth of our fourth daughter. Our family was still adjusting to the diagnosis of Down syndrome and weeks spent in hospital to repair a blockage in Sydney’s small intestine and to close a valve in her heart. The letter from Barbara was so positive and full of hope – so different from the “I’m sorry” and sympathetic looks we had been getting accustomed to receiving around home.

When Sydney was one year old, we decided to make the trip to Calgary and check out what PREP had to offer. This was our first taste of pushing Sydney and expecting from her what she was capable of doing. I already sensed at only one year old, that we were behind in Sydney’s development.

As Sydney’s mother, I feel an extreme sense of responsibility. I feel like it is my duty to provide her with the most expert therapy and interventions she deserves. This is one job I do not want to fail at doing. I desperately want Sydney to succeed in life, to have wishes and dreams, and to be happy. I feel like I am Sydney’s voice when others cannot understand her. I know I need to advocate for her when she cannot articulate what she needs.

I believe Sydney would not have the skills she has today if we had not connected with PREP.

When we were told that the services Sydney received through the school were adequate, I knew with my entire being that “adequate” would never be enough for my daughter. We scheduled trips to Calgary as often as we could afford to go. With three other busy girls at home, we were not always able to make the trip as frequently as I would have liked. However, with each visit to PREP, we participated in the therapy sessions and learned along with Sydney. This gave us the template to work with Sydney at home and continue making progress.

Walking through the doors at PREP is fun, cheerful, and welcoming. It is a place where I feel I can take a deep breath and let down my guard just a little. PREP is the only place where I feel like I don’t have to teach someone about Sydney, but can trust and respect their professionalism and genuine desire to help Sydney succeed. With a consistent therapy approach, we know when we visit PREP, we will leave with many effective strategies to continue working on at home. I believe Sydney would not have the skills she has today if we had not connected with PREP. I am truly indebted to PREP.