Connor Bothwell is learning to speak and his while vocabulary is growing, there are two words he says almost every day: “Matthew’s House.”
“Connor loves going to Matthew’s House so much, he talks about it all the time,” says his mom, Christina Beaupre.
What makes this unusual is that visits to Matthew’s House are not routine for Connor. Sometimes he will go months in between visits to this respite home for children with complex care needs and yet he still speaks of it daily. Christina thinks it’s because of the loving, personal care he receives when he’s there.
“The staff are amazing,” she says. “They are so sweet and they really care.”
Nine-year-old Connor is the middle child in his family. He has an older brother, Keegan and a younger sister, Kaitlyn. Connor lives with Down Syndrome, which brings some challenges to his life. His muscle control is not strong and he’s still diapered. His speech is coming along with the help of a speech therapist. He’s easily over-stimulated, which can make public places difficult for him. Connor’s eyesight is limited but he doesn’t enjoy wearing his glasses so he has to be watched carefully to ensure his safety.
But none of these challenges define Connor’s life. He is a friendly, active boy who loves music, dancing and singing. His favourite show is “The Big Comfy Couch”. He is a quiet, keen observer of all that is going on around him. And his family loves him deeply.
“I think Connor is the nicest kid I’ve ever met,” his brother Keegan observed recently. “He likes everybody, he never tries to hurt anyone and he tries to stick up for people who are being picked on.”
Connor was born at home and while the mid-wife knew immediately that he had Down Syndrome, it wasn’t confirmed for Christina and her husband, Todd, until they visited the hospital with him a few days later. The news was a shock.
“You go through a grieving process, grieving the child you thought you were having,” Christina remembers. “But Connor was so sweet. He slept through the night, he barely cried, he was so alert. We just moved on.”
It was also discovered that Connor had a hole in his heart and so he had to have corrective surgery at 11 months of age. Thankfully today he has received a clean bill of health and he is an active, engaging young boy.
Still, Connor does need expert care, which means that Christina and Todd rarely get a break. So when they heard about Matthew’s House, they decided to give it a try.
“I love the transition time they have at Matthew’s House, having you spend the first night with your child,” she says. “It really gives you peace of mind, not to mention that you have a gorgeous room to stay in.”
Parents who are new to Matthew’s House spend one or two nights with their child in the respite home to help train the staff how to specifically care for that child. It also helps children adjust to a new environment. Part of Christina and Connor’s routine at home is to sing a lullaby together each night. They introduced the staff to this routine during Connor’s first stay. Staff stood quietly in the doorway of Connor’s room to observe this bed-time ritual and when Christina was done, she turned around to see them standing there with tears in their eyes.
“It was such a relief knowing he’d be safe because the home is so wonderful,” she says. “But when I saw that, I thought ‘wow, these are good people, they have really good hearts.’”
For the Bothwell family, using Matthew’s House has given them space to do things that would otherwise be unmanageable, like painting their new house. It has also meant that Christina and Todd can enjoy special holiday time with their other children.
“It has opened up a whole new world for us,” Christina says.
This is true for Connor too. He looks forward to his time at Matthew’s House, enjoying the playground, the meal, and all the one-on-one attention he receives.
“When he arrives, he doesn’t even look back,” Christina says. “I can’t say enough wonderful things about Matthew’s House. It has been amazing for our family.”