Reaching out to the world with a smile

This is an article from Unfold newsletter.

You might not think it from his cheerful smile, but Dexter is affected by a genetic condition that makes his life really difficult. Thanks to you, Dexter and his family don’t have to cope alone.

Reaching out to the world with a smile

If you were to meet four-year-old Dexter, the first thing you’d notice is his extraordinary smile. It captivates everyone – even strangers in the street.

“Because Dexter is always smiling, he creates the most amazing connections with people,” his mum Carole explains. “When they see him looking so happy, their faces light up.”

“The smile belies a troubled heart”

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Dexter has Angelman Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that affects his development and movement. It also causes epileptic seizures, and limits his speech. But although Dexter faces huge challenges, he has a really happy nature.

“There’s so much going on behind Dexter’s smile,” Carole says. “It’s easy to forget the difficulties he faces. Dexter practically never has his balance, so he can fall at any time. Taking one step, trying to utter one word – he struggles with the everyday things.”

No one to turn to, no one who understood

Dexter’s smile brings him closer to the people around him. But Carole was isolated and alone as she waited for the results of his genetic tests.

“Waiting for the diagnosis was the most difficult part. There was a strong feeling of emptiness and anxiety. I couldn’t escape it, or share it with anyone. I didn’t know where to go for help.”

You connected Carole with a vital lifeline

Carole did find somewhere to go for help, thanks to you. She got in touch with our parent befriending service – one of the services that your gifts help fund. And we introduced her to Sav, a parent befriender whose daughter is also disabled.

Sav visited Carole’s house before Dexter was diagnosed, and they’ve been meeting regularly ever since. “We clicked immediately,” Carole says. “I knew I wasn’t going to be alone again.”

Facing the future together

Because of you, now it’s not just Dexter who’s smiling. Carole’s outlook has been transformed by Sav’s comforting words – and by your wonderful kindness.

“Even if I felt like a storm inside, Sav was always calm. Talking with her has definitely made me stronger. The terror I used to feel is gone, and I’m more confident about the future.”

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Dexter is making friends and thriving

Dexter’s future certainly looks bright. Last year, he started at a mainstream school for part of the week, and you’ll be pleased to hear that he’s settling in really well.

And by going to a mainstream school, other children have the chance to get to know a disabled child like Dexter which is such a valuable part of their education.

You’re putting smiles on the faces of everyone in the family. With your gifts, you’re helping parents like Carole feel less alone. And when mums and dads get the right support, their children flourish and lead happy, fulfilling lives – just like Dexter.

Scope exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we'll be here.

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