Dr. Rebecca Partridge is a familiar name in the Down syndrome community. Not only does she lead Virginia Mason Issaquah’s Down syndrome program, she is a parent to a teenager with Ds. Her unique perspective and expertise has made her a popular pediatrician amongst DSC families. This March, she will be the speaker at our event: “Understanding Adolescence and Puberty”. Many of us know Rebecca the doctor but we thought we’d ask a few questions to get to know Rebecca the mom (and advocate for all people with Down syndrome).
Tell us a little about yourself: I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. I went to nursing and medical school there. I was planning on leaving for my residency when I found out I was pregnant and my child had Ds (Josh). I wanted to be near family so we stayed. Eventually we moved to Nashville, Tennessee where I was at Vanderbilt for 3 years before coming to Seattle for a job at Seattle Children’s. Josh was 6 at the time. I worked in the Emergency Department for 4 1/2 years. I loved it there but wanted to change my focus. I dreamed of starting a program for children with Down syndrome in the Puget Sound area. Virginia Mason gave me that opportunity. That was 4 years ago last month.
What benefits have you and your children received from the DSC? We’ve been to Camp PrimeTime. My kids love it. For the last several years, Josh has started identifying that there is a little something different about him. The DSC has been helpful in introducing him to peers that also have Down syndrome.
Tell us about the series of classes you are hosting in March: Sexuality is part of being a person. Our kids need education just as much, if not more, than other teens. I spend a lot of time promoting Josh’s independence in a way that makes sense to him. For typically developing peers, there are many resources to help both parents and kids. For special needs families, it can be more challenging. I’m excited to open the dialogue and give people a place to start by providing tools and ideas to help parents keep our kids safe, clean and healthy. “Understanding Adolescence and Puberty” will be held over four Saturday’s in March. We will host classes separately for boys, girls, and parents – eventually bringing everyone together for the conversation.
What has been your greatest joy in raising a child with Down syndrome? Josh completely turned all expectations upside down, for both my kids (she also has a younger daughter, Meg). Before I had kids, I dreamed they would be doctors or lawyers. Now, I just want them to be happy and to be part of a community. What that looks like isn’t important. I try and focus on his joy and passion for life and not worry about if he is meeting expectations put on him by others.
What has been challenging about raising a child with Down syndrome? I’ve had to get creative to find effective ways to parent him. Things that work for many kids, do not work for Josh. I am a single parent so I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of. I am a perfectionist and I’ve had to let go of a lot of those expectations about what is perfect.
What are your hopes/dreams for Josh? I want him to have as many typical life experiences as possible: school, friends, job, live on own, get his heart broken. For right now, I’ve had to do a lot of arranging to make sure he has access to all of those things. He went to homecoming last month. He goes to school and has lots of friends. I finally let him join social media because I want him to have the same high school experiences as everyone else.
What should others know about people with Down syndrome? People with Ds have a different kind of diversity and have so much to offer. They have unique strengths (like identifying with other people’s emotions and great visual memories!) and bring so much joy to the world.
Most of us can attest that people with Down syndrome do bring much joy to the world. And many of us can attest that Dr. Partridge brings much joy to our community. Thank you for loving our kids and giving us parents the tools we need to successfully raise our amazing kids!