Swisher shares adoption story
March 21 has several special meanings to Satin Swisher and her adoptive mother Dena Swisher, Holton High School special education teacher.
March 21 will mark five years since Satin was officially adopted by Dena. They refer to the day as their “Gotcha Day,” according to Dena, and it is also World Down Syndrome Day.
Satin is not only the 2016 Holton High School Prom Queen, she also has Down syndrome. DS is the most common genetic condition in the U.S. with more than 400,000 people living with the condition in the U.S., it was reported.
Satin’s birth mother died from cancer when Satin was just two years old. Satin lived with her father until she was 12 years old and then went into foster care with two other half siblings, according to Dena.
Satin was placed in Beth Calhoon’s home in November of 2011, and Dena was at the Calhoon’s home when Satin arrived.
“When I met Satin, it just felt right,” Dena said. “It felt like God meant for us to be together. I had always said that, at my age, the only child I would consider adopting was one that had Down syndrome. My first impression of Satin was that she was adorable. She had a contagious laugh and big smile. It is always heartbreaking when you see a kid show up at a house with all their belongings in black trash bags.”
Satin moved to Holton to live with Dena in June of 2012 after Dena got her foster-to-adopt license. However, the adoption process took more than a year before Satin officially became Dena’s daughter and Holton’s sweetheart.
In Satin’s six years of living in Holton, Dena feels her daughter knows more people than she herself does, and she’s a Holton native.
“We live in a very open and welcoming community,” Dena said. “She just has the type of personality that makes you want to give her a hug. Everyone at HHS knew her name and kind of her story. She was crowned prom queen in 2016, and the look on her face was priceless.”
Adopting a 13-year-old girl can be challenging for anyone, but adopting a teen with DS and lack of communication skills can be very challenging to any parent.
“She was pretty much non-verbal when she came to me,” Dena said. “That made it difficult to know what she wanted or what was wrong. She had obviously not been nurtured and worked with as she grew up. That alone was difficult and then add some of the things that were unique because of her special needs made it challenging at times. The behaviors she had developed were a concern as well, but I think a lot of those at that time were due to the lack of communication skills.”
While the Swishers have encountered severe challenges since their first meeting, Satin has showered her mother with love.
“Her love for me and everyone around her is unconditional,” Dena said. “Even after she has gotten in trouble for something, the first words out of her mouth are, ‘I love you.’ When I am at my worst, she puts me at my best.”
Satin showed her love to Dena in a memorable way on Dena’s first birthday together as a family.
“A friend took her to Walmart to buy my present,” Dena said. “She picked it out all by herself. I got the best jar of pickles and bottle of mustard you have ever seen.”