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A Different Kind of Normal

For the Roush family, "normal" has a different definition than it does for most other families. And that's OK with them.

May 2013

According to Webster's Dictionary, "normal" is defined as "occurring to a type, standard, or regular pattern." But for Liz Roush, it means something a bit different.

Roush and her husband, Matt, are parents to seven children, two of whom have Down syndrome and three have autism. Roush chronicles their adventures on her blog, "Our Version of Normal" (http://ourversionofnormal.blogspot.com), where she ruminates on everything from the relationship between autism and genetics to her kids' favorite toys.

In one entry entitled "Social Life…What Social Life?" Roush writes: "I'm…often painfully aware that the peculiar behaviors that are the norm in my life can be potential deal breakers for many."

Later she writes, "How great it would be to have a website for finding new friends in your area. Here's my tentative first attempt: Mom of seven looking for new girlfriends: Must like autism, Down syndrome, big families, quirky kids, chaos."

The perfect match

While finding new friends may be a challenge for Roush, she managed to find the perfect doctor for her children with Down syndrome in Dr. Luis Escobar at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent.

It was shortly after the birth of her daughter, Lily, when she met Dr. Escobar. "After she was born, nobody knew what to say," Roush recalled. "Everybody was apologizing, treating me with kid gloves."

"Dr. Escobar was the light at the end of the tunnel," she continued. "He talked about how special Lily was, and the potential she had. He was the one who really showed me the positive things about our having a child with Down syndrome."

All in the family

In addition to helping the Roushes care for their children with Down syndrome, Dr. Escobar also diagnosed their youngest son, Leo, with autism. "As a geneticist, I do more than deal with Down syndrome," he said. "I take care of children born with all kinds of birth defects."

After Leo's diagnosis, Dr. Escobar asked the Roushes if he could conduct some tests to determine whether the autism was a genetic condition. "When you have two or more kids with autism in a family, you get highly suspicious that it's genetic," he said. "And we are working in our clinic to find out if there is a gene that causes autism."

The Roushes have known Dr. Escobar for so long that he sometimes feels like part of their big, quirky family – a fact he happily embraces. "I think it's sad that we still live in a time when people mourn that they're not having a 'normal' baby. I'm not normal. We're all weird in our own ways."

A heart for helping

Life isn't always easy for the Roushes. Taking care of seven children is a big task. Sometimes just getting dinner on the table can be a Herculean task.

And then there are bigger challenges. For example: Lily, who has Down syndrome, dislocated her hip early last year, and was forced to wear a full-body orthopedic cast for four months. That's when Liz wrote some of her most personal blog posts. "Those are the ones I've gotten the biggest responses to," she said. "When I write about the serious stuff, it seems to help others, too."

Help, you might say, is what Liz Roush is all about. She helped her biological children overcome challenges by finding them great care. And she helped her adopted children escape potentially bleak circumstances in their home countries. "If Dasha would have remained in the Ukraine, she would have been sent to a mental institution most likely by the time she turned six for the rest of her life… possibly being confined to a bed," Liz said. "There is no support for Special Needs children there."

Fortunately for Dasha, Lily, and the rest of the Roush children, support is one thing they can always count on – from Liz, from their father Matt and from Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent.

Tags: In This Issue, Parenting, Special Needs

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