Finn is an outgoing 4-year-old boy, who likes football, games, books and playing with his sister.
Finn has Down syndrome and Hirschsprung’s Disease, which is a bowel condition, and a rare heart condition which is often associated with children who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome. Finn attended the Mencap Children’s Centre and lives in Downpatrick with his Mum, Amy and his Dad Harry as well as little sister Faye.
Before Finn was born we knew he had a heart condition, so we had prepared ourselves for that. We also knew there was a good chance he would have Down syndrome, as statistically the heart condition he has is often associated with it. Our main focus, though, was on preparing our little boy for major heart surgery at five and a half months old.
On top of that we soon found out he had Hirschsprung's Disease, a bowel condition, which means he doesn’t have all of the nerves or cells that allow him to go to the toilet properly. So, at 10 days old he had surgery to have a colostomy bag fitted, so he was in intensive care from early on. In the first 18 months of his life Finn had six operations: five bowel operations and major heart surgery, which we needed to fly to England for. We were so focused on keeping Finn alive and well that the fact he had Down syndrome came completely secondary to us. He’s been through a lot of obstacles in his life and has come so far. He has developed massively and has grown into an amazing little boy.
"Finn is a great communicator and loves to communicate any way that he can, with everyone around him, making sure all eyes are on him. His great love at the moment is dancing, he’s a natural born performer."
I already knew Finn had Down syndrome before he was born.
I’ve heard other parents say similar. I said to my husband when he was born, just tell the Pediatrician we know and that we’re absolutely fine. I didn’t want them to sit down and have a doom and gloom conversation. Finn’s birth is one of my happiest memories.
Finn’s Cardiologist said to us, not long after he was born, “He’s just like any other baby. You just need to take him home and give him lots of cuddles and kisses, and you can think about his future way down the line.” And he was right. I think a lot of people who have a child that has just been diagnosed with a learning disability instantly think about where he’s going to go to school, or if he’s going to get married, but we didn’t even think about that. For us, it was all about simply keeping Finn alive.
Our Social Worker and Pediatrician told us about the Mencap Children’s Centre, and after a referral we were able to get Finn a place.
"Since Finn started at the Mencap Centre his development has been huge, he even took his first steps and started walking."
I think it was because he had been watching all the other children, and so for us it was a sudden jump in terms of mobility.
The effort that the Mencap staff and therapists from the Belfast Health Trust put in to achieve this by all working together was amazing, they focused a lot on his mobility, play and communication skills.
We were very lucky that Finn was able to attend the Mencap Centre, since going there his communication skills have just sky rocketed! When I look back to this time last year he’s just come on so much and Finn has now started talking in proper, full sentences. It’s like getting to know him on another level, and it’s so special to see. We definitely wouldn’t have progressed this far with Finn if he hadn’t attended the Mencap Children’s Centre, because when he’s here, he is focused on so much, he develops so much every week.
Finn will be going to mainstream nursey this year and has already started at their playgroup, just to get him used to it and he loves it there. I hope that he enjoys it as much as he enjoyed being at Mencap, so that he’ll continue to flourish in the way that he has here. The Mencap staff have really taken Finn to heart and obviously care about him, his development and have fallen in love with him as a person. I know it’s never going to be the same as the specific environment at Mencap, as you have everything under one roof, from therapists, staff, equipment, and the environment with the other kids, but I hope he continues to be happy and reach his full potential wherever he ends up.
Thank You Mencap!