CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Shiloh Guffey, a mom to 10 children, didn't know what to expect when she and her husband learned their tenth child, Wesley, had Down syndrome.
"[Wesley] was surprise number 10 and we didn’t find out until after he was born. He was about a month old when we got the confirmation that he had Down syndrome," Guffey said.
Before the diagnosis, Guffey said she didn't really know anything about Down syndrome. The scared and confused mom needed somewhere, or someone to turn to.
"There’s so much information on the internet that It can be overwhelming," Guffey said.
Thanks to a friend of a friend, Guffey said she learned about Gigi's Playhouse a week after learning about Wesley's diagnosis.
"The weekend it opened, I called and said what do you do? I have a 7-week -old with Down syndrome. What do I need to know?" Guffey recalled.
GiGi's Playhouse is a Down syndrome achievement center that runs free therapeutic and educational programs for individuals of all ages with down syndrome birth through adulthood.
So you never age out," said Melissa Buczek, site coordinator for Gigi's Playhouse, said of the organization. "Gigi's Playhouse is a physical location where families can come together. It's really essential for the whole family to feel like they have a place to call there own.
Guffey said even though her son is still very young, she's already noticed how GiGi's Playhouse is helping him.
"We came to class today where he sat in the little bumper chair just sitting up," Guffey said. "And having that time where he's sitting is helping with head control and with muscle control that they tend to have a problem with."
Guffey said she expects the same level of success for her son Wesley, that she does with her other nine children. The timeline just might be different.
"I met a woman and the woman's son had Down syndrome and he's at App State right now," Guffey said. "She's the one who told me she said you can expect the same things that you expect from your other children – the timeline might be different but you can expect the same."
Guffey firmly believes Gigi's Playhouse will help Wesley succeed in every aspect of his life.
"Having a place where everything is catered to you and to your abilities and not your disabilities is a major stepping stone in building your confidence and those skills and I think it is great," Guffey said.
But for now, Guffey just wants Wesley to know he's loved fiercely.
"He just brings happiness to everyone and I want him to always know that and to always know that people are happy that he's here. That he wasn’t a mistake that he wasn’t an afterthought that he brings happiness," Guffey said.