Embracing the Challenges, Finding the Fun

When the April edition of Neighbors of Bargersville and Center Grove magazine featured the Kobiela family, readers were treated to a number of photos of the family laughing and smiling, playing games and just goofing around. The story describes a tight-knit crew that finds the fun in everything, every day.

Kayden and his family Photos with the story featured Mom and Dad, their three cheerful kids and even their two Great Pyrenees dogs. Still, on some days it could seem like the images left out a family member: Damar Services behavior therapist Michael Malone.

“He’s like part of the family,” Jenny Kobiela says. Laughing, Todd adds, “Sometimes, when he comes to the house, I’m chopped liver.”

Malone provides the family with services for seven-year-old Kayden, who was born with Down Syndrome. The family has worked with Damar for about a half-dozen years, and with Malone for three. The primary challenge? Kayden has a tendency to dart away—the technical term is elopement—whether that’s getting out of the house and running or dashing off in public places. A particularly quick little guy, he can be a challenge to keep up with and track down once he takes off.

Kayden with a Damar staff member While a parent’s natural response to such a challenge is to hold more tightly to the child, Malone is helping the Kobiela’s give Kayden a little more freedom and leeway, coaching them as he accompanies the family on outings or spends time with them at home. In this effort, Malone has joined the family at Kayden’s sisters’ school activities, gone trick or treating with the family and taken trips to museums and other attractions.

“He’s always willing, if we give him enough time, to say that we’re going to the zoo or something, and he usually says, ‘I can make that.’” Todd says.

While that presence at home has been helpful, Tony and Jenny say Malone also has been a big support in dealing with Kayden’s school challenges, going to the Walnut Grove Elementary classroom to see how Kayden interacts with teachers and other and giving input to the school’s staff. In those settings, Malone has helped the family advocate for Kayden, ensuring he gets the proper supports and services.

Kayden and his family As big a role as Malone plays with Kayden and his family, the tight-knit Kobielas obviously embrace the challenges of raising Kayden. His sisters, Keylee and Kiera, serve as two of his biggest fans, and the five Kobielas often travel as a single, happy unit, attending school events and visiting area attractions. They’re looking forward to summer, which will include a lot of time in the water. Kayden loves to swim (“He is quite a fish,” Jenny says), and they’re getting him ready to participate in Special Olympics events. He also plays baseball, and there will be plenty of family outings and activities – all of which will no doubt challenge Mom and Dad to give Kayden a little more freedom, but all of which will be met with smiles and laughter. Because that’s how the Kobielas roll.

“It’s going to be a fun summer,” Todd says.