Tanner Knotts is the youngest of three children. As one can imagine, he has them (and the rest of us) in the palm of his hand. His sisters, Loden and Elizabeth, were nine and six when Tanner completed our family.
During my pregnancy we were referred to the geneticist for testing. We had been through it before and really didn’t think much more than, at our age, it was a precaution. The test revealed a bit more than we anticipated – we would be having a boy with Trisomy 21 – Down syndrome.
At first, our spirits were crushed. We were scared, worried, and overwhelmed. What would life be like for us and for him? We had imagined so many things for our son, and now to find out it would not be anything as we had hoped, dreamed… what? We didn’t actually know. Ken and I knew of other families with a child that had Down syndrome but did not have a lot of knowledge.
We told our immediate family and just a few close friends about Tanner’s diagnosis and we studied. I dove into life and medical; Ken chose finance, insurance, benefits and estate planning. We both got to know Shawn Wilkerson with CMDSS, the New Parent Coordinator. We had lunch, talked, and spent a ton of time getting to know all about support. But in the end, it was clear – we were just having a baby, and with two other children at home, it was just going to be ok.
Regardless of the diagnosis – he was still just a baby, our son Tanner, and he was home.
The big day came. Tanner entered the world on July 9, 2007, at 5 lb 2 oz and decided he would get to know the staff at Baptist for a few weeks before making his grand appearance at home. Yeah, he was small, and no, he didn’t like to eat, but he was just a baby. We still had doubts because he just didn’t display the physical characteristics we expected. So we had a second genetic test, and those tests affirmed his diagnosis (which didn’t matter to us–he was just Tanner).
The day we brought him home we drafted an email to our friends and family to let them know he was home and to share his diagnosis. We made it clear that we would be raising a son named Tanner and not a condition or diagnosis, and we certainly didn’t want him to be treated any differently than other children. The responses were all over the board, but the ones that we recall most were the congratulations. See, regardless of the diagnosis – he was still just a baby, our son Tanner, and he was home.
Unfortunately, medical issues continued and he decided to do time at Arkansas Children’s Hospital at five months old for his heart condition. Despite initially showing no signs of heart issues, he had them and we had to get it fixed. Again, support out of this world from ACH’s staff, our family and friends. Almost overnight he started gaining the weight he needed to, and in short order he was trying to stow away in Ken’s suitcase he was packing for business trips. He was a boy, all boy.
We didn’t expect to have a special needs child. It’s not something you dream about when you’re planning the perfect family. What we’ve discovered through the years is there is very little perfect planning – especially when it comes to children and family. God gives special gifts to special people. We’re still trying to figure out what makes us special enough to deserve the package we got. And boy does this package pack a lot of extras – love, laughter, smiles, giggles, all sports, focus, determination and most of all energy!! But we’re sure glad we got him!
Today Tanner is involved in numerous activities through school and beyond. He spends time daily with the children in his 3rd grade class as well as the special needs friends he loves so much. He is reading, spelling, and working on addition and subtraction. He plays basketball, soccer, baseball, and football. Tanner is an avid bass fisher awaking every Saturday morning asking when he will get to hit the water.
We researched and thought a lot about what Tanner’s future would hold, and we were extremely wrong in those initial thoughts. Our life may be at a different pace, but it’s our pace. We have learned to appreciate, enjoy, and love the little things in life. Tanner and so many of his Trisomy 21 friends are achieving things the public never thought possible 30, 20 or 10 years ago. It’s not all the kids, it’s the support of organizations like CMDSS who provide support and a place for parents to talk about what is working and how to get your child involved.
Our story is about Tanner, and he happens to a little more special that the average child.