PO Box 425
Tewksbury, MA 01876
On September 23, 2003 Liam Knyff was born, changing the lives of the Knyff family forever. Liam, the first of three children, was born with Down Syndrome. While Liam’s mother Erin was in recovery from a C-section, doctors were testing the newborn for common symptoms of Down Syndrome, some examples including intestinal problems, blood disorders, skeletal issues and high rates of heart defects. In addition to the feelings of excitement and nervousness, there was uncertainty for the brand-new parents as the doctor bared news of Liam’s complication. Fortunately, none of the other medical issues common with Down Syndrome were present.
The next day, Liam’s mother called her family informing them of the news and immediately followed with their visit to the hospital in support of the newborn. One of the doctors came in with a book titled “Babies with Down Syndrome” to help ease some of the parents uncertainty. Rather than going home and getting some rest, Liam’s father Adrian read the entire book and spent hours researching the Internet for valuable information about Down Syndrome. Adrian returned to the hospital ensuring his family that “we can do this, this is nothing.” He probed the doctors for answers to some of the questions he had following his research. Shortly after, Adrian and Erin Knyff brought their beautiful new baby home to start a whole new chapter of their lives.
Through various support groups, the Knyff’s submersed themselves in the company of amazing parents whose children also had Down Syndrome. With the involvement in that community, Adrian and Erin were able to oversee how all the children developed. At the age of two, Liam still hadn’t developed any language skills or even shown any interest in communication, contrary to many of his peers in the community. This raised concern for his parents even though many professionals assured them that this was normal for a child in this situation. The Knyffs were not wrong for being concerned about the lack of Liam’s social development, because at age five their child was diagnosed with PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) also known as Autism. Many professionals call this a “Dual Diagnosis” or a “co-occurring” diagnosis. The feeling of uncertainty returned as they thought of different scenarios for their child.
After all the different ways of coping with the dual diagnosis of their child, Adrian and Erin resorted to what they did best and educated themselves extensively on the disorder. They sought help from the government’s Department of Developmental Services, but found it to be more of an inconvenience than anything. What they imagined to be nothing but a negative experience turned out to have many positives, however. Although the dual diagnosis of Liam seemed like it was the only one of its kind, the Knyffs were not alone. Charlotte Gray and Jeanne Doherty, both mothers of dual diagnosed children, united with Liam’s parents to work towards the same goal. Once again, the family found themselves submersed in a community with parents of children having the same diagnosis or other challenges, some including Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, and William’s Syndrome.
As a result of Liam’s dual diagnosis, Liam Nation was formed. It started out as an annual fundraiser but has become so much more. Liam Nation benefits families and friends who are connected to a loved one facing challenges such as these everyday. The money raised will help give families alternate solutions for these challenges. Most importantly, Liam Nation wants to provide families with the same love and support they’ve received.
Please join the Nation and support our mission.