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“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.”
FRANCIS OF ASSISI

Pizza and a Movie

Marcy Toney

Picture this: a typical scene on a Saturday night. Cars pull up and teenagers straggle into a friend’s home one or two at a time. Soon there is a small party going on. The pizza deliveryman arrives. Someone pops a DVD into the machine. Laughter, conversation and jokes interrupt the movie, but no one complains.

But look a little closer: something is a little “different” in this family room. This is no “average” group of kids. Of the 10 or 12 kids hanging out, the majority have Down syndrome! All of the others have some sort of, shall we say, “disability”. This is a gathering of the “Saturday Night Pizza and a Movie Group” — a group of 12 teens that get together at each other’s home to share friendship, laughter and, of course, pizza!

The group emerged a little over a year ago when I invited a few of my son’s friends over for pizza and a movie to mark the end of the summer and the return to school. As the kids were heading out the door at the end of the evening, one of them turned to me and said, “This is the most fun I ever had!”

Suddenly it dawned on me — these kids are no different than their average counterparts. They love to hang out, have fun, share conversation and laughter just like every other teenager I know. The only difference is, these kids need a little help in getting it all to come about. That’s where the parents come in.

In the age of e-mail, this is a fairly easy activity to organize. I contacted about six or seven families with students roughly my son’s age from the same high school. All of them were kids he knew through school, special recreation, or even our NADS baby playgroup! I told the parents what I wanted to do — get the kids together on a fairly regular basis for pizza and a movie. I gathered e-mail addresses, sat down and looked at the high school calendar so as to avoid conflicts with school events, and came up with a list of dates. All of the families signed up for a convenient date to host and, voila! the “Pizza and a Movie Group” was born.

I now set up a calendar for three or four months at a time. The gatherings are always held on a Saturday night about twice a month and we have settled on a regular drop off and pick up time. I e-mail everyone a reminder a few days before each party night.

Some of the hosts have added their own touches to the gathering. The group has also played bingo for small prizes and engaged in hilarious rounds of charades. In the summer, some activities have taken place in the backyard.

The size of the group has grown to 12 now, and the enthusiasm they all have for the get-togethers is amazing! My son starts talking about the pizza parties a few days ahead of time, and he usually asks me about five times during the day, “Mom, what time is the party?” For the first time in his life, he has a real social life — and he knows it. To say he loves being part of the Pizza Party group is an understatement.

After seventeen years of parenting a child with Down syndrome, I am again reminded how much like his “normal” peers he really is.

NADS News, January, 2004