Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a series on north Okaloosa County residents with Down syndrome. The National Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk is Oct. 26 in DeFuniak Springs.
CRESTVIEW — Benjamin Shea, at 13 months old, is pretty much like any other toddler.
"He laughs the same, he cries the same, he teethes the same,” Benji's mother, Stefanie Shea, said. “He has the same stubborn streak as his brother and sister."
But Benji, as his family calls him, has Down syndrome.
Stefanie and her husband, Chris, knew Benji was going to be special when prenatal screenings came back positive for the genetic disorder that affects development.
"We knew we were going to be blessed," Stefanie said.
While life is as routine in the Shea household as it was when Benji's 2-year-old brother, Logan, was his age, there are a few extra challenges, including physical therapy and other medical appointments, Stefanie said.
When Benji reaches 3 years old, he'll enter school at the same time as Logan, though he'll be in a special needs program. It will "help him stay in line with his intellectual and physical development," Stefanie said.
However, having a child with Down syndrome is no burden, Stefanie and Chris stress. Life remains a typical family's whirlwind of activity, including runny noses, trips to the zoo and shopping.
"We really plan to raise him with the same discipline and the same love," Stefanie said. "There will be the same consistency at home."
The Sheas are putting together a team for the National Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk, which is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 26 at Walton County High School in DeFuniak Springs.
"We have our own team registered for the Buddy Walk," Stefanie said. "It's called Bennie and Jets. We are very excited."
Potential donors, supporters or new team members can call Stefanie Shea, 902-2313, for more information.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.