My brother Daniel

By Beth Puckett

If you visit Petersfield High Street this Easter, don’t forget to keep your eye out for socks!

Bethany Puckett, who works at Mackarness and Lunt Solicitors, has arranged a special Sock Treasure Hunt as a children’s activity this Easter holidays.

Why socks? Let Bethany explain…

I was six years old when my youngest brother Daniel was born. As Mum came towards the end of her pregnancy my excitement and anticipation was high. I was sandwiched between two brothers: one two years older than me, the other two years younger, and in my mind it was obvious—I was going to have a baby sister. How exciting! She would balance out the girl to boy ratio and I would get to enjoy girl-time with the new baby.

The day soon came when my parents headed off to hospital and then we heard the good news…Daniel was born! He wasn’t a girl, but it was still exciting.

Then we heard some more news. Daniel would need to stay in the hospital, in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) for a while and wasn’t going to be coming home straightaway. Then my parents explained to me that Daniel had a genetic condition called Down’s syndrome.

My parents didn’t know Daniel had Down’s syndrome before he was born. Dad was the first in the family to find out. Dad spent some time with Daniel and then went to see Mum and told her the news. Daniel was a healthy baby. We are very grateful that Daniel, though he was fragile at the start, was blessed with good health.

I don’t ever remember Down’s syndrome being explained to me. The fact that Daniel had Down’s syndrome didn’t really hit me until I was ten years old when Daniel started attending the same mainstream school as I did. When I saw him with other kids his age I became aware of some differences. He had extra help in the classroom and made slower progress.

Nevertheless, he was like a rock star—everybody knew Daniel and he was never short of friends. His school mates never treated him any differently and his loving, happy nature was appreciated by everyone. People knew me and my family as “Daniel’s sister” or “Daniel’s Mum”.

Daniel struggles with his speech. He communicates in few words and short sentences. Daniel has some weaker muscle tone. This can make it more difficult for him to use his tongue to speak clearly, (but at the same time he has amazing flexibility and can naturally bring his foot up to his head and behind it!). He has moved to a special school where his speech has improved with dedicated help.

Daniel recently celebrated his 14th Birthday. Over the years a whole lot of “Daniel’ stories have circulated around our family and new stories are created each day:

A few years ago I went with Daniel on a kid’s boat ride. I had just got the boat up to full speed when, in a flash, Daniel removed the throttle knob and plunged it into the water. The boat was locked at full speed and I had to make a crash landing on a floating pier when our time was up. Our landing was so dramatic that all the boat ride staff had to get in on the action to bring calm to the over-revved boat. I was very embarrassed by all the additional attention, whilst Daniel thought nothing of it!

Daniel can be quite cheeky, particularly when in public, and usually manages to prompt a reaction, create a commotion or simply another embarrassing situation (just last week he nearly set my coat on fire after getting hold of a kitchen gas lighter!) The coat survived with a few melted patches and he got an important lesson in fire safety. There’s never a dull moment!

He can throw and kick a ball more accurately than anybody I know; he loves the Lion King and daily acts it out with his cast of stuffed animals; he puts large blobs of ketchup on nearly every kind of food; he sneaks down at night to play video games and sneaks back up before anyone notices; he will do something and, despite it obviously being his doing, will still have the nerve to blame someone else (even strangers). Most importantly of all, he’s my brother (should have been a sister) whom I cherish dearly.

I am concerned that a large number of people don’t really understand what the condition is and that some people maybe are even scared of it. People can feel uncertain and nervous when they meet someone who might be different to themselves.  When you meet someone for the first time, talk to them and get to know the person as you would with anyone else. Don’t be surprised when you find the experience is a rewarding one, leaving you with a reminder about what is really important in life. My brother Daniel has broadened my life perspective and given me a close-up and interactive appreciation of people with “special needs”.

Since 2006 World Down Syndrome Day has been celebrated on 21 March each year.

People around the world wear #LotsOfSocks…(official World Down Syndrome Day socks), brightly coloured socks, long socks, printed socks, one sock… even three socks for the three chromosomes. That’s why I have organised a Petersfield High Street Sock Treasure Hunt to raise awareness of Down’s syndrome.

Mackarness and Lunt Solicitors, where I work, have decided to support the Sock Hunt, and so we have made it a fun activity for children in the Easter holidays. I’ll be designing tailored made sock motifs for all the companies along the High Street to display.

You can begin your High Street Sock Treasure Hunt (for a small fee) at Mackarness and Lunt Solicitors (16 High Street, Petersfield, GU32 3JJ) between 10 – 14 April, from 10am to 3pm. Just keep an eye out for sock motifs and try to spot all those competing.

The money raised will go to the Down’s Syndrome Association.