Isabella Beatrice Burniske is our amazing daughter. She is 9 years old. We adore our daughter Isabella and wouldn't change her for the world. That extra chromosome makes her who she is. Isabella was born in Peru, and then, after heart surgery at 1.5 years, spent 4 years of her life in Tajikistan so she learned to understand Russian very well and spoke it a little. We have lived in Bogota, Colombia now for almost 4 years. Isabella speaks Spanish better than English and it seems to us that she thinks she is Colombian.
Here in Bogota Isabella goes to a great private school, the Colegio Anglo-Colombiano. The board created a special policy to admit some kids with Down syndrome to promote diversity in the school and to enable these kids to have a good education. Here in Colombia the law says that schools cannot exclude kids with intellectual disabilities, but in reality they find all kinds of ways to do this, so we were very grateful when after much difficulty we encountered this accepting place. Isabella has been having swimming lessons for three years now.
She is also a natural horse rider, sitting tall in her saddle from the first time she mounted a horse. She loves to look at her books (she is learning to read now), drawing (she makes these great Kandinsky-esque drawings), music and sports. We have a home in Skamania, Washington, on the Columbia River gorge. She switches cultures with ease, and when we go back there, she is happy to play with her cousins and do Pacific Northwest things " like ride in our cars, climb rocks, and visit waterfalls.
She has trouble with some concepts, and has had a great struggle to learn to speak "'' mainly with grammar. Probably learning many languages at once had its pluses and minuses in this respect. At age 9 she is in kindergarten, but she is thriving there and we do our best not to compare her with her peers. As long as she continues to progress, this is the important thing. I fear she is lonely sometimes. All the kids are great to her at school, but she doesn't get invited over to play. This has a lot to do with the culture here: that the families all know each other and socialize, and that Colombians spend most of their time with their extended families. I think it would be very nice for Isabella to have a group of friends who also have Down syndrome, and to do this we must go back to the U.S. and live in our home there.
I am hopeful about her chances in life though. I heard there is a college in Washington State that has a program for kids with developmental disabilities. If it is true, I am sure Isabella will eventually be able to go there. Whatever her future holds, she will meet it with enthusiasm, joy and creativity as she always has.