Identical twins born with Down’s syndrome at odds of two million to one have celebrated a milestone their parents thought they might never see.
Parents Matt and Jodi Parry did not think that Abigail and Isobel would be able to go to a mainstream school.
Happily, it looks like teachers telling them apart will be the biggest worry for them.
The adorable four-year-olds were diagnosed with Down’s syndrome three weeks after their premature birth in June 2011.
Matt and Jodi admit they first thought this was “a life sentence” – but now devote their lives to busting myths and misconceptions around the genetic condition.
Now, with new school uniforms and books at the ready, Abigail and Isobel are ready to begin their first term at the same Chorley primary school as big brother Finlay, aged six.
Matt said: “When the girls were born we did not know if they would be able to go to a mainstream school.
“This just shows how far we have come in our own understanding of Down’s syndrome. We had misconceptions which a lot of people still have, and that is what we are trying to tackle.
“In sending Abigail and Isobel to a mainstream school we have chosen to push them to succeed as much as we can, but we are not blind to the fact there are alternatives should they struggle.”
Matt and Jodi launched the Twincess Campaign to provide prospective or new parents of children with Down’s syndrome with frank, non-judgmental advice.
They say looking after Abigail and Isobel is no more difficult than bringing up Finlay, who does not have the condition.
On their Twincess website the proud parents share pictures of their daughters doing everything from football to pony riding to promote their message of celebrating achievement.
Jodi said: “When I was told the girl’s had Down’s syndrome I was devastated. I felt like someone had just ripped my heart out.
“But when the girls came home from hospital it soon became very apparent that apart from a few extra appointments they were no different to Finlay, it would maybe just take them a little longer to do things.”
Abigail and Isobel have now begun half days at their local mainstream primary school and have one teaching assistant supporting them both.
Although they can only speak a handful of words, their sign language vocabulary is equivalent to a child of the same age’s verbal vocabulary.
Matt added: “The challenges Abigail and Isobel have overcome and how they just get on with it is amazing.
“Our aim with setting up Twincess was to show the non-Down’s Syndrome community and people who have never been touched by Down’s syndrome what people who have the condition can do.
“It is all about celebrating achievement, rather than focussing on the things they can’t do.”
Carol Boys, CEO of the Down’s syndrome Association, said: “In the past it was believed there were many things that children with Down’s syndrome could not do when in fact they had never been given the opportunity to try.
“Children with Down’s syndrome can and do learn alongside their peers in their local mainstream primary school, despite the fact they may not learn things as quickly as their classmates.
“Increasingly, they will move on with their classmates to a mainstream secondary school and many will leave with qualifications and go on to further education.”