Love Her & the Rest Will Come
INNERview with Teri Kendle
For eight years, Ms. Teri Kendle has been passionate about using her voice as an advocate and activist for various causes – Missing and Exploited Children, Domestic Violence, Children with Special Needs and Incarcerated Youth and Adults. She was born and raised in Sacramento, Ca. Her passion for spreading awareness of Down syndrome (DS) stems from Imani, her 8 years old daughter who was born with Down syndrome.
YVONNE PIERRE: When was your daughter Imani diagnosed with Down syndrome? And how much did you know about DS prior to her diagnosis?
TERI KENDLE: Imani was diagnosed with DS at birth. At the time of pregnancy, I was 39 years old and knew there was a chance that my baby could have DS. I did a lot of research on DS, during my pregnancy. So, when she was born I had a lot of information. But I did not see any information on African American children or adults with DS.
YVONNE: What was your initial reaction?
TERI: Well, I was scared. But I asked God to bring people into our (Imani and I) lives that could guide us through. God have a plan and this is another assignment. I felt that if I could get through sexual abuse, domestic abuse and taking care of my elderly parent, I could do this too!
YVONNE: There are parents who struggle to cope with having a child with special needs. What would you say to those parents?
TERI: I would tell them, just like Imani’s Cardiologist told me, “Just love them. The rest will come.” That was the best advice anyone gave me and that is just what I did.
YVONNE: No parent wants to see their child have to endure any form pain. A lot of kids with Down syndrome have heart conditions. With Imani did she have any heart issues and how did you cope with seeing her go through the surgery?
TERI: Yes, Imani had tiny holes in her heart and the top valve was open. I prayed every time we went in for an Echocardiogram the holes where closing and I kept praying. When Imani was 5 years old, she had a procedure that went in through her thigh and closed her top heart valve. It took 45 minutes as an out-patient and she was up and running in about 3 hours. Imani was very blessed that she did not have open heart surgery.
YVONNE: What inspired you to advocate for children with special needs?
TERI: I had such a hard time finding GOOD information. All the information I found on the internet was how my daughter would never learn, never talk, never walk, short lifespan, etc. I just could not accept that prognosis. I was inspired to share the GOOD news to help parents know that having a child with DS was a blessing and every parent was chosen.
YVONNE: A lot of people, who have a false perception of individuals with Down syndrome and don’t’ have the privilege of seeing what we see as parents. What is one thing about Imani that you wish people knew about her?
TERI: That she is just a normal little girl that just happens to have DS. She will not let you treat her any different. Her favorite words “I CAN DO IT!”
YVONNE: If you could change anything in the world for the future of individuals with special needs, what would it be and why?
TERI: Children and adults with DS like to be challenged and they love to learn! I’ve noticed that a lot of Special Education teachers do not think our kids will ever be anything. And it shows, they do not teach. So, what I hope for in the future is more teachers who are PASSIONATE about teaching children with special needs – teachers who believe in their student’s abilities.