19 Mar Josie’s Art.
Estimated reading time 8 and a half minutes
Online forums can be a great support network for many people going through a variety of things. You get to meet people going through the same things you are. They understand, they can help, they can listen and they can inspire. I have joined a few on Facebook and met some wonderful new friends who have kids with Down syndrome. I am always keen to speak to other Mums who have older kids or adults with Down syndrome. Especially Mums who have children who have gone through school and are succeeding in life. These are the mums who have had it tough. They have paved the way for us so to speak. I thought it would be great to interview Mums or have them guest post here from time to time to get a fresh perspective on things Down Syndrome.
For my first interview I have chosen a lovely Mum that I met on one of the groups I am in. Julie is the Mum of super talented Josie.
Welcome Julie and thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.
- When did you realise Josie had this art talent?
I had no idea Josie had a talent for art until I enrolled her in a mainstream painting and drawing class at a local art gallery after she left school, simply because I was looking for additional activities for her to “fill up some hours”. Josie really only ever drew stick figures previously and interestingly enough still does, however there seems to be some sort of shift in perspective when she is presented with a photograph of a landscape to copy. It’s a different process.
- How long does Josie spend over the week doing her paintings? What inspires her?
Josie spends 6-9 hours on a work. This is always over two weeks as working with oils as her chosen medium can be a slow process as you need to wait a week for layers to dry. She usually gets a base down one week and goes back and completes it the next. Josie has had specific instruction in landscapes so she is inspired by places she has visited on family holidays. The colours of the Australian landscape are so rich, so they are perfect for her to paint. She is at the gallery half a day a week.
- Tell me about Josie’s Schooling. Did she attend mainstream schools?
Josie attended a mainstream school for her primary education which was a great success. The school was very supportive and positive. In High School she attended a support unit which was not as successful in my opinion, as although gaining worthwhile life-skills, overall I would say she regressed in this environment.
- Did she enjoy school?
Josie enjoyed school and was always very focused and attentive, she continues to enjoy developing her numeracy and literacy skills and has nearly completed a Certificate 1 in Basic Vocational skills through TAFE. Once she attains this, she will continue on to Certificate 2.
- Did you participate in any formal early intervention when Josie was a toddler? If yes what did you do?
Josie had the usual invention with therapies such as speech, OT, physio and we attended a special needs playgroup on a weekly basis when she was very young. I also placed her in care when she was about 2 for two days a week which I believe helped with her independence. At 3 she attended a small pre-school that took a Montessori approach and this worked very well for her.
- You have obviously nurtured Josie and been a great advocate for her. What are the main challenges you have had to face while bringing up Josie? How did you overcome them?
There are many challenges. When she was young (and up to about 6 years of age) her health was the biggest challenge. There seemed to be a never-ending string of appointments and screening, many surgeries and a lot of worry that went with all of that. Once her health issues were under control though, things became much easier. A big challenge has been trying to process inwardly the social stigma and bigotry against those with disabilities that still exists in society. When she was young I didn’t notice it as much, but as she is older now I recognise it more easily and I do find it disheartening. The whole “system” too is a challenge and after some years of navigating it I see a lot of parents that just get tired and roll with the status quo. I have always tried to find good options that will give Josie the best outcomes and that is very hard to do when choices can be so limited for kids like ours. You do have to be a bit creative.
- What advice do you have for a new mum like me facing the road ahead with Ariel?
Just take one day at a time and enjoy your amazing journey. Expect nothing less than what you would for a typical child in relation to what may be possible and in negotiating access and services from the system. The other advice I would give is if something doesn’t work for your child, don’t be afraid to move and keep looking for things that might work, because you just never know what you might find. I think a mix of both mainstream and special needs groups are good. Josie does dancing with the Twinkle Stars and Star perfumers dance troupe which is for people with special needs and she has a great time with her friends from that group, but I think mainstream activities are really important for our kids also if you can find them.
- What is in store for Josie’s future
At this point Josie continues with her Tafe course, her dancing and her Art. As the only Australian artist invited to be a part of Heart and Sold, UK – an international collective of artists with DS, we expect that she will exhibit this year in London in July and in New York in October. So her immediate future is very exciting. Down the track we are hoping to set her up living downstairs, independently of us, as we have a dual occupancy type arrangement in our current home. Of course more adventures and travel is on the agenda to continue to provide her with further personal challenges and more beautiful subjects for her to paint. Today her future is very exciting and definitely limitless!
Wow thank you Julie. Head over to Josie’s Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/worksbyjosie to view her work. Here are some of my favourite photos. As you can see she is seriously talented. Well done Josie! xx