Akron Children’s prides itself on inclusion – at the hospital and in our communities – so it should come as no surprise that we love to celebrate and raise awareness for our patients.
We first introduced you to Gino Russ in 2018 to celebrate his accomplishments during World Down Syndrome Day. Today, like all of us, Gino has made some adjustments to his day-to-day routines because of COVID-19, but they haven’t kept him from thriving and growing more independent by the day.
“Gino attended school remotely for 3 months at the start of the pandemic. Like other school-aged kids, his teachers and therapists sent activities through email, posted assignments on Google Classroom and shared videos with us,” said Tiffany Russ, Gino’s mom. “Gino isn’t a fan of sitting in front of a computer so I was grateful to be home with him so I could balance work on the computer with more hands-on activities.”
Similar to what many families experienced, transitioning to remote learning had good and bad moments.
“Knowing how Gino thrives with a routine and a structured environment, I created a visual schedule for him at the very start of the pandemic to keep him focused,” said Tiffany. “Although it was challenging to help with all of his needs, we worked together to stay on track with schooling from home and then playing outside to keep everyone active and happy.”
At the start of the 2020/2021 school year, Gino faced another transition – all-day kindergarten! Adjusting to the long day and new daily routine hasn’t always been easy, but his ability to learn has remained constant. Like many of his peers in school, Gino can count to 10 and identify the letters of the alphabet.
Beyond adapting to new daily routines and school schedules, Gino also faced changes to his weekly speech therapy sessions at Akron Children’s.
“When the hospital canceled in-person appointments for several months due to concerns with the pandemic, Gino’s therapist stayed in constant communication with us and sent us activities we could work on with Gino,” said Tiffany. “We also met with Dr. Langkamp (in the Down Syndrome Clinic) via a telehealth call.”
While his in-person sessions looked different for a while, Gino’s family was thankful for the continual guidance and care of the Down Syndrome Clinic.
“One of the things we find most helpful about the (Down Syndrome) Clinic is its management of Gino’s medical screenings. We also appreciate their overall knowledge and understanding of having a child with Down syndrome (DS) so they’re always able to answer our questions or concerns,” added Tiffany.
As Gino gets older, he’s also becoming more aware of his surrounding so his parents are pleased with the changes they’re seeing with more inclusion of people with DS.
“We love seeing more models with DS in advertisements now. We also have books with DS characters that we read to both of our children,” said Tiffany. “We like to remind Gino and Elli (now that she is old enough to understand her brother was born uniquely) that Gino, and others like him, are more alike than different.”
October is Down syndrome awareness month, but acknowledging the similarities we all share and the positive impact those with DS make in our community is something we should celebrate any time of year. Tell us how your child makes a positive difference in the world, @akronchildrens or use #DownSyndromAwarenessMonth.