There’s No Place Like High Point

Photo by Morgan Crump

According to Lubbock resident Jovita Luna, having a 30-year-old son with Down syndrome has made her strong.

Luna said she felt obligated to raise her son David to function as normally as possible since the day he was born. 

“David has been raised with my other children as if he were one of them,” she said. “I did not baby him. Just because he has Down syndrome does not mean he needs to be babied.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control website, about one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect in the United States.

According to data on the Texas Department of State Health Services website, about one in every 23 infants was born with a birth defect in the state of Texas in 2006. In Lubbock, however, the data showed significantly higher rates. About one in every 15 infants was born with a birth defect in Lubbock County in that same year.

Major birth defects are conditions present at birth that cause structural changes in one or more parts of the body, the website said. These defects can have a serious, adverse effect on health, development, or functional ability, it said.

Luna said she began working with David on basic life skills when he was only 2 months old. She said now at 30 years old, David functions normally for someone with Down syndrome.

“Some of the things that come naturally to other infants, you really have to work on with kids with Down’s,” she said. “Some children never learn to read or write because they have Down syndrome, but I am so blessed because David has learned to speak.”

Luna said people with Down syndrome are usually very social, so it is important to let them interact with other people.

“David was regressing whenever he left high school, and he wasn’t able to be around other people,” she said. “He was losing a lot of the vocal traits that he had. If you’re not encouraging someone with Down syndrome to keep moving, they become sedentary.”

In response to the submission of a Texas Public Information Act, Eva. M. Smith, vital statistics coordinator in the Lubbock city secretary’s office, said they do not have information regarding the number of infants born with birth defects in the Lubbock area.

In order to obtain this information, a second TPIA request was then filed with the Texas Department of State Health Services via e-mail.

Mary K. Ethen, an epidemiologist in the Birth Defects and Epidemiology and Surveillance branch, responded to the request, and she provided several peer-reviewed studies regarding the causes of birth defects in infants.

A third request was sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Department of Health and Human Services. This was a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the number of infants born with any type of birth defect in the United States, by state, and any studies that have been conducted regarding the causes of birth defects.

The CDC has not yet provided the information requested, but the CDC FOIA Officer, Katherine Norris, acknowledged the request with a mailed response, which stated that the information would be gathered and provided as quickly as possible.

Luna said people with Down syndrome require extra attention, and it can sometimes be overwhelming for her as a parent. She said she found a solution at High Point Village in Lubbock.

Doug Morris, the executive director at High Point Village, said High Point is a faith-based, non-profit organization that offers several classes for people with disabilities.

“What we’re doing is providing enrichment activities for people with special needs,” Morris said. “About a third of our kids are Down’s, another third is autistic, and the other third is a combination of different things, like cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome, or traumatic brain injuries.”

Morris said High Point Village was started in 2009 by a group of parents who had kids with special needs.

“What we want is to help these kids gain independence,” he said.

Morris said some of the classes offered at High Point Village are reading, cooking, Zumba, music, art, and social skills.

“We’re teaching reading because some of these folks are in their 20s and can’t read,” he said. “Back in the day people didn’t think they were capable of reading, but they are. It just takes a little longer.”

Morris said the Zumba class is a great way for special needs people to exercise and have fun at the same time.

“Some of these folks are overweight, and they don’t have good nutrition or good eating habits,” he said. “In Zumba they dance like nobody is looking.”

“We have some with very limited movement,” he said. “When they’re doing Zumba and watching the instructor, they don’t realize that when they are moving they are exercising their muscles too.”

Luna said David loves going to High Point Village because he gets to interact with his friends.

“High Point gives David an outlet and a place to go,” she said. “It gives him something to look forward to.”

Morris said all of the people who teach classes at High Point Village are volunteers.

Hillary Pierce, a volunteer at High Point, said she teaches Cooking 101.

“This is the basic cooking class, which is the first one they take,” Pierce said. “The first semester we just teach them how to use the microwave, crock pot, and toaster oven. Basically anything we can do without a stove.”

Pierce said she also teaches them kitchen safety tips.

“This class is helpful because they can cook things themselves when they are hungry, and they don’t always have to rely on parents or caretakers when they want food,” she said. “Lately we have been taking turns cooking each of their favorite foods in class.”

Morris said he believes every person at High Point Village has a purpose.

“We don’t do any babysitting here, and we don’t just put them in a room and say have fun,” he said. “Being here increases their self-esteem, because every day they come away from it learning something new.”

About Morgan Crump
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