Peterborough writer wins award for book about son with Trisomy-21

  • Elizabeth Goodhue was honored with the Page Turner Awards Non-Fiction Award for her submission of 'The Truth About Down Syndrome: Lessons Learned from Raising a Son with Trisomy-21' about her journey with her son William. Courtesy photo—

  • Elizabeth Goodhue was honored with the Page Turner Awards Non-Fiction Award for her submission of 'The Truth About Down Syndrome: Lessons Learned from Raising a Son with Trisomy-21' about her journey with her son William. Courtesy photo—

  • Elizabeth Goodhue was honored with the Page Turner Awards Non-Fiction Award for her submission of 'The Truth About Down Syndrome: Lessons Learned from Raising a Son with Trisomy-21' about her journey with her son William. Courtesy photo—

  • Elizabeth Goodhue was honored with the Page Turner Awards Non-Fiction Award for her submission of 'The Truth About Down Syndrome: Lessons Learned from Raising a Son with Trisomy-21' about her journey with her son William. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/11/2020 4:35:08 PM

The lessons that Elizabeth Goodhue has learned from her son Will are too important not to share. So the Peterborough mother of three decided to write a book about her first born with the hope that it will impart some wisdom on those who don’t truly understand what it’s like to have a child with Down syndrome.

“I always wanted to send the world a message that having a son or family member with Down syndrome is not this great tragedy,” Goodhue said. “It’s not this great horrible thing, it’s just that it’s different.”

Recently, Goodhue was honored with the Non-Fiction Writing Award through Page Turner Awards for “The Truth About Down Syndrome: Lessons Learned from Raising a Son with Trisomy-21.”

For 31 years, William has been her teacher in life that until he was born she never saw possible. Because Goodhue didn’t know she was having a child with Trisomy-21 – the scientific name for Down syndrome – until he was born.

“He came out and I knew it,” she said.

There were issues like jaundice and Will couldn’t nurse. They spent five days in the hospital and the reality of how life had changed quickly set in.

“Everything about being a new mom got taken away. I was really freaked out,” she said. “I couldn’t even imagine what I was going to do.”

It was also determined that Will had a heart defect – a common issue for children born with Trisomy-21. That meant a six week stay at Boston Children’s Hospital when he was very young for surgery. There she met other parents of children with Down syndrome and it’s where she learned that one of the most important things is humor.

“We could laugh and cry together,” Goodhue said.

That was just the beginning of a journey that has been filled with unconditional love, ups and downs, twists and turns.

“I do know if he hadn’t been in my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” Goodhue said. “I’ve changed so dramatically in the way I view the world.”

For Goodhue, those lessons have taught her to trust her judgment and make sure that she is always looking out for Will’s best interests. She remembers when he was in middle school and didn’t agree with how he was being educated, so she decided to take him out of school.

“I had no idea what I’d do with him the next day,” she said. But she had a lot of help from people like Jim Orr, and Sandy and Jim Aborn, and it eventually led to what she felt was the best educational path for her son.

She tried the whole idea of integrating Will into the community, where he lived on Summer Street for a year after high school, but “it was a tough year and he was not particularly happy with his situation,” she said.

Then she found Plowshare Farm in Greenfield.

“It’s paradise. It’s the best place for him,” Goodhue said. “The quality of life is unbelievable and it’s fully inclusive up there. It’s just one big community of great people and William is completely independent.”

“The Truth About Down Syndrome: Lessons Learned from Raising a Son with Trisomy-21” started as a blog and morphed into the idea of a book. When she saw the Page Turner Awards contest she figured why not throw her hat in the ring. She’s entered plenty of contests in the past, even though “I don’t ever expect to win,” Goodhue said.

She sent in a 10 page excerpt and kind of forgot about it. Even when she was short listed for the award in September, a list that consisted of 60 authors, it wasn’t anything to get excited about.

Then she got a call in October that she had won the Non-Fiction Writing Award. Her first reaction?

“I’m not really sure I should believe you,” she said at the time.

Eventually she did and not only had she won the non-fiction category, but it earned her literary agency representation. Up until that point, Goodhue was on the road to self-publishing. Now, the hope is it will be picked up by a publisher, and have a more wide spread launch and reach an even bigger audience.

“To be recognized is such a great thing because you never know if your book is good,” she said. “It makes me feel like my writing is worthy.”

The book, which is about Goodhue’s journey with Will, is a series of vignettes and includes poetry, which allows for readers to skip around and not go from cover to cover.

“You could open the book to any page and it would make sense,” she said.

One of the biggest messages in the book is that Down syndrome should be called by its scientific name. Trisomy-21 is when a child is born with an extra copy of the 21st chromosome.

“That would really help people understand it,” Goodhue said.

Because she’s found it to be helpful when discussing Will with others.

“When people ask me about how he’s different, I say the only difference is he has an extra chromosome,” she said.

Sure, Will has other differences from people his own age: he doesn’t talk, read or write. But he loves music and theater and has a tremendous sense of humor.

“Before I had Will, it would have been hard for me to fathom to have a child that couldn’t read and write,” Goodhue said.

She has watched as the bond with his grandfather John has blossomed to the point “they are kindred spirits,” she said. Prior to COVID-19, they had a weekly standing Wednesday date that included things like visits to the Peterborough fire station, lunch at the Peterborough Diner and dessert at Dunkin Donuts.

Add it all up and you can see why Will has been such an impactful teacher.

“He is the most sensitive, loving, caring person I think that I know,” she said. “It’s hard not to fall in love with Will.”


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