Inspiring Individuals

Melissa Staggs

“I believe if you have an opportunity to educate people in a meaningful way, I think we have an obligation to try.”
Melissa Staggs
Mom of AJ (CdLS)

Just Two Moms (JTM’s), today is actually 4 moms who all take turns leading presentations that talk about the importance of acceptance and inclusion of individuals with special needs.

We talk a little bit about our diagnosis journey, we read one or two books aloud to the kids that highlights individuals with varying abilities, but more importantly we discuss ways that students can include those with a variety of abilities. 

We try to take the taboo out of disabilities by creating a safe and vulnerable place to discuss our lives and give students an opportunity to share their experiences and ask us questions.

I learned about JTM’s through my friend Larkin O’Leary, who started JTM’s with a friend of hers. Both women have a child with Down Syndrome, and they started by putting together a little presentation for their kids’ pre-school class to teach the kids about acceptance and inclusion. The presentation was such a hit, the preschool asked them to come back. Other local schools heard about Just Two Moms, and the booking requests started pouring in. The group now has presentations targeting all age ranges from preschool to college. We do community events and host meet-ups with other families who have children with special needs.

Larkin’s son James and AJ (my son) became fast friends, as they were on the same little league team and soccer class. Larkin knew about my volunteer work with other organizations, as well as my advocacy and awareness work for CdLS. She asked if I was comfortable sharing my story and speaking in front of crowds. I said yes, and yes!

While I was initially devastated by our CdLS diagnosis, it became clear to me pretty quickly that I had an obligation to make AJ’s life as full and amazing as possible. That meant taking one foot in front of the other – no matter what. It meant learning everything I could, and then sharing our experiences with our loved ones. Even before JTM’s, I knew the only way to overcome the sorrow was to understand it, and then use it to my advantage – I knew that if I could do that than others would follow my lead as it related to AJ. His diagnosis in some ways faded into the background because we were simply focused on being a family. Now that we’re solidly in our grove, JTM’s has given me the opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the last 6 and a half years with kids who may not have any other exposure to someone with a disability or special needs.

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