'I wouldn't change anything': Families share experience of living with Down's syndrome

  • Darren Renouf's parents say he's always had the attitude of "I can do that".

Two families have shared their experiences of growing up with Down's syndrome in Jersey.

October marks Down's Syndrome Awareness Month.

Darren Renouf, 46, was diagnosed with the condition at six weeks old, with his shocked parents being told by doctors that he would struggle to go far in life.

One reportedly said: "Darren's got Down's syndrome, why don't you try again for another one and see if you can get a better one?"

His parents knew nothing about bringing up a child with this condition and were sent home with just a few pamphlets and a warning from their paediatrician that they would have to fight for Darren.

Darren was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome at six weeks old. Credit: Betty and Adrian Renouf

Nevertheless, Betty and Adrian Renouf never held their son back and were committed to "bringing him up as a normal child", sending him to Cubs and Beavers and fighting the States to provide him with additional speech therapy.

He studied at Mont à L’Abbé school and always maintained the attitude of "I can do that".

It was there that he discovered his love for drama, and at the age of 17, he left the island to join a drama group that performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Shakespeare Globe.

To date, he's performed alongside Kate Beckinsale in a film called Shooting Fish, voiced a Les Amis advert, and taken the lead role in the movie Jack Blond.

Since moving back to Jersey, Darren lives independently with three friends who also have learning disabilities, and works at Beresford Street Kitchen.

At the age of 35, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but despite his parents' concerns he doesn't let this stand in his way and self-manages his condition.

He knows he's different but he's determined to live his life to the full.

  • Sarah Gaudion tells ITV News about her daughter, 10, called Maggie.

Maggie, 10, is a girl from Jersey who also has Down's syndrome.

Her mum, Sarah, is full of praise for the Jersey midwives who assisted during the birth, saying it was a positive experience.

However, she does admit the first year of her daughter's life was challenging but says it's been a joy since.

Maggie is always smiling and has a positive outlook on life, according to her mum. Credit: Sarah Gaudion

Maggie's parents were determined she would go to a mainstream school, and since the age of three, she's been attending St Martin's.

She was the first pupil with the condition the school ever had, but it's been a success thanks, in part, to the strong bond she has with her teachers, and her love of reading.

While she does struggle with some subjects, her mum says she has an "inbuilt stubbornness and determination" to try her best.

Maggie loves her teachers at St Martin's primary school who help her with reading which is one of her favourite hobbies. Credit: ITV Channel

Sarah says it can be challenging for Maggie to access sports clubs and activities in the same way as other children.

However, this doesn't stop her and she enjoys surfing, paddleboarding and netball.

She also does horse riding once a week and takes pride in knowing each of the horses' names.

Maggie's mum says she feels like she's won the lottery having her daughter in the family. Credit: Sarah Gaudion

Her mum says Maggie has such an optimistic outlook on life and often greets her in the morning saying "Good morning mummy, I'm going to be happy today".

She added: "I wouldn't change Maggie at all. I'd like to make life fairer for her, and easier, and for her to have access to things that other children take for granted but, as a person, I wouldn't change her.

"Someone said once, 'it's like winning the lottery', and at the time I wasn't quite there and I sort of rolled my eyes thinking 'who would choose all these extra battles and the health issues', but now I'm like it is.

"I feel like, as a family, we've won the lottery having Maggie in it".

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