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Adrienne Walsh

Director | Hidden Miracles Parent Network

When her sixth child was born with Down syndrome 20 years ago, Adrienne Walsh had trouble finding information and support for parents.

“It was unexpected for us and it can be hard to process,” Ms. Walsh said of having a child with Down syndrome. “You may have a sense of loss and grief for the child you thought you were having. It is helpful to see children a little older, and further along, to see how they are doing and learn about the therapies available.”

Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

As a way to network with other parents and provide information about Down syndrome, she started a non-profit organization, Hidden Miracles Parent Network about 17 years ago. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 691 babies in the the United States is born with Down syndrome, making Down syndrome the most common genetic condition. Approximately 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome and about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year.

Ms. Walsh, who now lives outside of Houston, Texas, attended Quinsigamond Community College, graduating in 1976 with an Associate degree in early childhood education. She grew up in Fitchburg and attended QCC right out of high school. She also attended North Adams State College, now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, for her bachelor’s degree in education.

She still works as a substitute teacher today. Through Hidden Miracles, she provides new parents of children with special needs with information packets, which are distributed at hospitals in her area. She also writes a monthly newsletter and the organization meets about three times a year for networking and strategic planning.

“My youngest daughter changed my focus, to be a voice for someone who couldn’t speak for themselves initially, to show we are more alike than different,” she said. “We want our children to be successful too. Every life can make a difference. That is what we’ve done, we’ve taught her dignity and that she can make a difference in others lives as well.”

Her daughter, Havilah Grace, 20, is now attending Texas A&M, through a one-year program to train to be a direct support personnel. She could work at a center for adults or children with special needs, or work in a classroom as a children’s aide.

Because many families in the area have to drive into the city for therapies, Ms. Walsh said she would love to have a development center available in her area, about 90 minutes outside of Houston, with therapies and resources for families. She said she is looking into the possibilities of how Hidden Miracles could be involved in this type of project.