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Gala in Newport Beach to benefit Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County’s The Learning Program

September 18, 2008|By Christine Stricker

Drawing people in with her crystal blue eyes and sparkling smile, four-year-old Audrey Presby of Costa Mesa is a princess at heart. She loves to sing and dance, and get dressed up in her princess dresses, as well as playing dolls and having tea parties. This summer when Audrey walked into her “Princess Class,” offered by the city of Newport Beach Dept of Parks and Recreation, the other girls saw her as Tinkerbell, or Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty. All they talked about was their dresses and accessories, how many Cinderellas there were, and which dress they wanted to wear the next week. The other girls saw Audrey as just another princess.

 For the last three years Audrey has participated in Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County’s The Learning Program, a source which leverages current research on best practices and effective teaching strategies to improve the educational potential of children with Down syndrome. “The Learning Program provides us with meaningful, high interest materials to develop Audrey's sight word reading, vocabulary, comprehension and number sense,” said Audrey’s mother Nicki Presby. “For Audrey, The Learning Program is the place where she goes once a month to see her friends with Down syndrome and ‘do her learning.’  She walks right in, says hi to her friends and starts to play, never looking back. She can't wait to do her learning,’ at home with me and show her dad how she can read.”

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 Audrey rides the bus to Harper Preschool in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in a blended class. Her younger brother Will, almost three, will join Audrey at Harper this year as a typical peer in the classroom. The Presby family, which also includes 16-month-old Eloise, is grateful for the joy Audrey has brought into their lives and the lives of their extended family. “Having a child with Down syndrome has made us better, stronger people,” adds Nicki. “It has instilled in us the acceptance and love for all people for us, for Audrey and for her siblings. The Learning Program emphasizes celebrating all of your child's accomplishments, having fun and playing with your child in a meaningful way, and taking advantage of teachable moments.”

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