Shortly after Adeline Liss was born, her parents, John and Lisa, knew Adeline needed extra support. A friend who needed similar support for their child introduced the family to Belle Children’s Services, where six-month-old Adeline received vital early childhood therapies. Though they would not receive a diagnosis for her rare chromosomal condition until she was two-and-a-half years old, Adeline and her parents were already equipped with the tools they needed to help her achieve all her dreams.
Parents as Advocates
John and Lisa had a clear vision for their daughter and set a high standard for themselves too. Instead of over-sheltering Adeline, they were determined to empower her. Adeline experienced full inclusion in school, and her parents never shied away from encouraging new friendships or spending time in the community. In fact, the Lisses presented a vision statement for Adeline when she entered kindergarten. It stated, “Adeline will be considered a person first. We do not want her known only by her disability or presumed intellectual capacity. Adeline will live and work in our community. She will participate as a contributing member rather than a disabled member.” The power of those beliefs and the certainty of this determination is evident in who Adeline has become today.
Today, Adeline is a vibrant 18-year-old woman. She is confident, responsible, determined, funny, warm, and she cares deeply about others. She loves to bake and sing and has made numerous friends throughout her community in Webster Groves. Adeline joined her school choir at a young age. Last year, she sang with her choir at Carnegie Hall, a dream that many aspire to reach, but few ever do. Outside of school, Adeline also spends time working. She is a teacher’s aide at both Hudson Elementary and Kirkwood Early Childhood Center helping in a kindergarten room and in music and art classes. When asked what she loves to do, Adeline will answer without hesitation “helping people.” She participates in a mission trip each year. One year she went to Guatemala to build a house for a family in need. She finds an abundance of love through her faith community at church and enjoys spending time with her brother, Gabriel. Gabriel, now 20, remembers growing up with Adeline as an adventure. “I wouldn’t change our family dynamic for the world,” he says.
Adeline has also shared a lot of laughs and made quite a few friends at the St. Louis Arc. Her favorite program is Teens in Motion. The program empowers individuals to meet new friends, have fun, and to help them prepare for next steps in life. John and Lisa are quick to share that without early intervention services, they would have been lost. Belle Children’s Services and the Arc stepped in with the information they needed. John, Lisa, and Adeline were given the confidence to positively challenge Adeline’s schools and advocate for her because of the support Kate Hannon and other staff members provided.
Community is Key
The Lisses know two things: first they could not have done this without the many Belle families who have been on this journey with them. Second, inclusion is powerful for a child with a developmental disability. The Arc joins them in this commitment, especially now when Adeline is facing life changes after high school. Sharon Spurlock and other Arc staff members are supporting their whole family through trainings and workshops focused on transition. And they are helping Adeline chart her path forward where she will continue to help people, to sing, to bake, and to make the world a better, more inclusive place.
Join Us for Giving Tuesday
As you kick off your holiday season and prepare for year-end giving, we can’t thank you enough for supporting the St. Louis Arc. Taking part in #GivingTuesday allows us to support the Liss family and the thousands of individuals and families who participate in Arc programs. Remember, you don’t have to be a world leader or a billionaire to give back. #GivingTuesday is about ordinary people coming together doing extraordinary things!