Down Syndrome Awareness: Standing Tall

The daughter of Stream contributing senior editor Tom Sileo is making extraordinary progress and reminding us why all children with special needs are gifts from God.

Natalie Sileo, daughter of Stream contributing senior editor Tom Sileo, celebrates her 2nd birthday.

By Tom Sileo Published on February 18, 2022

Our youngest daughter Natalie has Down syndrome, but that does not define who she is. To us, she’s an endlessly joyful little girl who works extra hard to achieve new milestones.

Natalie turned two years old on February 4. Right around that time, she started standing up on her own. Seeing her smile and clap along with us each time she rises to the occasion is just about the best feeling any parent can have.

She is also starting to take her first steps, thanks in large part to many months of hard work by the amazing therapists who regularly visit our home to work with Natalie. I never fully realized how many dedicated professionals were out there helping children with Down syndrome and other special needs until Natalie was born. Their commitment, compassion and expertise is extraordinary. They have done wonders for our daughter in these early years of her life.

Natalie had another milestone this month: finally getting to meet her grandpa. Like many young children during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nat had to initially get to know her grandparents through a smartphone screen. Having my dad here in Florida this past week has been such a special time for all of us.

With World Down Syndrome Day coming up in March, now is a good time to start celebrating this precious part of our population. As Stream founder James Robison so poignantly reminded us before Natalie was born, children born with Trisomy 21 are gifts from God. While I’m still not sure why I was given the gift of being a “Down syndrome dad,” I definitely know why He chose my wife to be Nat’s mom. Seeing her devote so much daily time and effort to ensure that Natalie has the opportunity to excel has been a blessing. I love you, Lisa.

Just before World Down Syndrome Day, Natalie will be having some relatively minor surgery aimed at improving her ability to hear and speak. Thank you for joining us in praying for our little Nat and the talented medical professionals who will undoubtedly work wonders in the operating room.

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Along with her bright smile and sweet voice, one of the things I love most about Natalie is how she communicates. One of her favorite signs she’s learned so far is “star,” which she enthusiastically uses every night while watching her favorite Sesame Street video, “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon.”

Indeed, our daughter and millions of other children with special needs are reaching for the stars. Thanks to the grace of God and the hard work of so many good people helping her, Natalie is just a little bit closer to the sky as she now stands proudly on her own two feet. We can’t wait to see what she accomplishes next.


Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of Three Wise MenBrothers Forever8 Seconds of Courage and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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