CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The month of October recognizes so many important causes, one of which is Down Syndrome Awareness.
A local family is one of several in the Coastal Bend who is doing their part in raising awareness and getting the word out about resources that are available.
This is the Castillo family. Maybe you've seen or even follow their Facebook page, called "The Up Brothers," those brothers being 11-year-old Blake and 7-year-old Dalton, who have Down Syndrome. They also have a little sister, sweet 4-year-old Peyton.
For parents, Juan and Michelle Castillo, they say while so many events this year have had to go virtual, they still fully intend on making this month great.
“Down Syndrome Awareness Month is such a fun month for us because it’s not just a day, our kids are so special they get the whole month! So we get to celebrate and do things with them all month long," said dad, Juan Castillo.
"Unfortunately, now everything’s gonna have to be virtual or online, but there’s still so many things that people can do to spread Down Syndrome Awareness. Our colors are blue and yellow, we also wear funky socks, so that’s something that everyone can do, is wear your blue and yellow, wear your funky socks! And just talk abut Down Syndrome Awareness as much as you possibly can. What I like to tell everybody especially is talk to your kids. Let your kids know what this month is."
Meet the kiddos:
Peyton is in Pre-K and loves the Baby Shark song. Blake is in the 5th grade, and his favorite song is "Ice Ice Baby." Dalton is in the 1st grade and his favorite things include everything from elephants, dinosaurs to Mickey Mouse!
The children attend Flour Bluff ISD and according to their parents, will continue with at-home learning. Castillo says despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, his family and children have been provided with all the necessary resources to continue with the at-home instruction.
“We’re not seeing anything decline with them, their education is improving everyday, Mom does the best job she can, and I think just as long as we’re able to have that team effort with your school, and in our case Flour Bluff, then you can’t go wrong."
Advice for fellow parents:
Castillo shared the raw emotions he felt the moment they learned their child had Down Syndrome 11 years ago.
"It was such a long time ago, obviously 11 years ago. We did not know 100-percent until the birth. I was not OK with it at first to be honest with you. It hurts to say right now, but that’s the truth, and you have to be honest. I was not OK with it at first. I thought that – I really felt like having a child with Down Syndrome would mean that I was less of a person, less of a dad for some reason, but then when he [Blake] was born, it was just like, 'Oh my God!' All that guilt, all those negative thoughts just vanished into thin air," Castillo said.
“I would say to any parent out there that just got a diagnosis, don’t worry. Try not to stress too much over the diagnosis. Have fun through your pregnancy, it’s all going to be OK."
Resources & Groups:
The Castillo's want to make sure other area families are aware of the resources and groups that are around to help keep their children active and involved.
"There are lots of organizations here in town that help us with our kids, our kids and adults. There is the Miracle League, Special Hearts in the Arts, Special Olympics, C.A.S.T for Kids. All those things combined I think help to bring awareness as well."
How can you help?
Castillo says he's seen more acceptance and awareness toward Down Syndrome here in Corpus Christi, but does have an additional message for relatives or friends of families who have a child with Down Syndrome:
"Don’t ask. Go help! Go and help them [parents] with whatever they need. Maybe they need a date night? Go and help them take care of the kids. I know mine are three wild ones here so that might be a little too much, but you know what? Go and take care of the kids and let those parents go out on a date night. Go and see if they need help with a Zoom class, or help with the school work. Reach out to your special needs parents and help when you can."
Castillo is also the founder of the annual "Funky Sock Walk," a local community event, that unfortunately due to the pandemic, was canceled this year. However, he says the family is looking to hopefully have it again in 2021. You can follow their Facebook page for updates.