Parent to Parent program specialist lives her creed

Teri Hough discovered the organization after a son was born with Down syndrome.

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Interviewing Teri Hough about herself proved a bit tricky. Every question led her back to talking about Parent to Parent, where she serves as the developmental disabilities program specialist.

She first discovered the organization in Wenatchee as the new parent of a baby with Down syndrome. Parent to Parent provides emotional support and information to families of children with special needs. P2P also provides a peer mentor group that pairs "Helping Parents" with newer parents, offering assistance, advice, support and relief. The group also pairs typically developing students with children who have disabilities.

When Teri's son, Brian, was born, her experience with Down syndrome was that children with this disability were institutionalized. Determined that her son's future would be different, Teri found herself learning everything she could about early intervention. She got involved with P2P, made lifelong friends, and learned how to mentor other parents. Teri relates the story of a time she and her late husband, Larry, were called to the hospital to visit with a brand-new mom of a Down syndrome baby. They took stories, photos and, most importantly, as parents of a 6-month-old boy, hope.

As the mother of three young boys, two who developed typically, Teri learned that the key to her son's independence and success would be integration in both worlds. She believes isolation is the disabled person's biggest enemy. Thanks in no small part to her hard work, Brian is now employed at the Walla Walla Police Department. She believes more disabled adults could achieve gainful employment and further autonomy by being friends with both disabled and typically developing people as kids. She stresses that inclusion in both academic and leisure events is vital for getting to know each other as people and seeing skills and abilities that may otherwise be overlooked.

When a disabled child is born, parents can feel a great deal of fear, she said. Working through that fear can be daunting, and Teri is glad to help parents achieve peace. "I love to see that wonderful transition, where the child's disability is not the focus of who they are." Although her son Brian has Down syndrome, she is quick to point out "that's not who he is. He's happy and content in life, and how wonderful for Brian," she said.

Carla Nibler, Teri's employee and friend, nominated her because of this very attitude. Carla said, "I really look up to her as a specialist and advocate in the field of developmental disabilities." Carla describes Teri as a great role model, with a fun sense of humor, who encourages other parents to "stop and smell the roses." Teri loves her job helping parents to see "the joy at the end of the tunnel."

Teri has the knack of finding a sliver lining just about anywhere. When Brian was born, she says, her husband was "floored." She was working as a department supervisor at a bank, and Larry was also in banking. Shortly after Brian's birth, Larry was laid off for about nine months. Far from seeing this occurrence as catastrophic, she calls that time a blessing, explaining that Larry got to spend those nine months learning all about Brian and how to relate to him, and it led to a bond that remained until Larry's death.

Teri and Larry were married for 31 years, and his death nearly three years ago, while difficult, was followed three months later by the birth of Teri's first grandchild.

She glows with pride when describing Lillian, now 2¬?. She is tickled to have her family in Walla Walla. Son John, 32, has a master's degree in teaching and substitutes at Garrison Middle School.

Her son, Jim, 26 is the father of Lillian, and Brian, 22, is scheduled to move out on his own in the spring. Teri sees that as the completion of a journey she began when she first sought the help of P2P in Wenatchee.

It's clear that Teri Hough enjoys and is well-suited for what she does. Her passion and empathy are apparent in every conversation. Part of Teri's leadership creed is, "I will give my all and be an example to others. I will strive to inspire others to serve." Teri seems to live the creed. As Carla Nibler expressed, "We're so lucky to have her in the Walla Walla Valley."

To nominate a mom who makes a difference, contact Beth Swanson at bethswanson@charter.net. Learn more about The Moms Network at www.themomsnetwork.com

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