“She was born to live!”
A profound statement from a mother who has gone through it all with her 19-year-old special needs daughter.
Dalecia Boyce, a resident of Shorey Village, St Andrew, was the first runner-up in the recently held Shine Like A Diamond beauty pageant for the disabled. The firstborn of David and Denise Boyce has a condition called Williams syndrome.
Dr Jennifer Campbell describes Williams syndrome as a genetic condition that is present at birth and is caused by the deletion of genetic material from a specific region of chromosome 7. It is characterized by mild to moderate intellectual disability or learning problems, unique personality characteristics, distinctive facial features and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) problems.
“People with Williams syndrome typically have difficulty with visual-spatial tasks such as drawing and assembling puzzles, but they tend to do well on tasks that involve spoken language, music and learning by repetition [rote memorization]. Affected individuals have outgoing, engaging personalities and tend to take an extreme interest in other people,” the medic explained.
Dalecia’s parents first noticed something was different about her when all of her milestones were delayed.
“We knew something was wrong, but we didn’t know what it was,” her mother Denise recalled.
Additionally, Dalecia was experiencing problems with her eyes, ears, teeth and heart. In fact, she was born with a blockage in the stomach that prevented her from digesting. Only a small amount of milk could slip past the blockage, “barely enough to keep her alive” and “she began projectile vomiting from birth”. By day seven or eight, Dalecia had to undergo corrective surgery to remove that blockage.
That was not all though; their young baby also had a lazy-eye, blocked tear ducts, suffered from severe earaches and had a heart murmur.
By then, Dalecia’s paediatrician Dr Patricia Inniss had recommended they transfer her to developmental paediatrician Dr Jennifer Campbell.
“We all knew she was special needs child by then,” said Denise.
Neither walking nor talking by age one, Dr Campbell recommended that Dalecia get speech therapy and physiotherapy at the Children’s Development Centre (now the Albert Cecil Graham Development Centre).
Denise had high praise for each of her daughter’s paediatricians, especially Dr Campbell, with whom Dalecia has spent most of her years.
“She was a godsend at a time when you needed help for your child and you didn’t know where to turn . . . and CDC was really helpful in her development. She started to walk a
s a result of them,” Denise remarked.
Though reluctant to let Dalecia have another operation, her parents were finally convinced to have her lazy-eye dealt with after a lady who had had corrective surgery outlined the “horror stories” and insults she had borne growing up with a similar condition. She begged the Boyces not to let Dalecia bear that burden.
Moreover, “the woman’s eyes were perfectly aligned”, Denise recalled.
After eye surgery at age three, Dalecia was forced to wear a patch over her “good eye” for some time before transitioning to glasses, which were very thick at the time and apparently uncomfortable.
“I remember . . . David and I searched for those glasses a whole day and couldn’t find them. We didn’t know Dalecia threw them outside.”
On turning 18, Dalecia’s care was handed over to Dr Gayle Medford.
Dalecia formerly attended St Giles and All Saints Primary schools, followed by five years at the Ann Hill School before enrolling in the arts and craft programme at the Derryck Smith Vocational Centre in January.
Dalecia has a certificate of competence from the SJPP after completing one unit of nail technology of the Caribbean Vocational Qualification and National Vocational Qualification programmes there.
She also won the Principal’s Award when she graduated from Ann Hill, has medalled in the local Special Olympics and has represented Barbados at the Special Olympics
With a name that means delightful, once people meet Dalecia, they are drawn to her; but that too can be potentially harmful.
“The world is not as nice a place as we would want it to be. So we try to teach her some restraints with her friendliness,” Denise expressed. “Because she is articulate, people sometimes expect more of her than she can give. They have to understand that even though she is friendly and talks a lot, she is limited in her thinking. She has a learning disability which has affected her cognitive skills –– her reading and writing.”
Her dad David says raising a special needs child can be challenging.
“Sometimes when I think of what she would be doing at age 19 if she was normal; probably getting ready for her driver’s licence, or me having to get a gun for potential boyfriends . . . .”
He also expressed concern about how she would fare if anything happened to him and her mother, since “Barbados is not yet at the stage where it really looks out for persons with special needs”.
Added David: “But she brings us a lot of happiness and laughter; we treat her like any other child; and I am really, really proud of all the things she has accomplished.”
And he remarked particularly on the way Dalecia manoeuvred around the stage the night of the pageant.
Dalecia’s relationship with her siblings is also admirable. Describing his sister as “very loving”, Daquan says “people with Williams syndrome like a lot of hugs and kisses; so I give her like ten to 15 times a day . . . . Because I understand Dalecia, nothing she does gets me vexed”.
The 16-year-old Combermerian pointed out: “Although she is my big sister, I treat her more like my little sister; and I try to help her out because it isn’t the normal big sister-big brother relationship.”
Meanwhile, Daesha, a third former at Combermere, stressed “it takes a lot of patience. She makes me evaluate myself a lot . . . but she is a happy person with a big heart”.
From the time Dalecia received the letter at school informing her about the Shine Like A Diamond pageant, she was interested.
“And I told my mother I wanted to enter. I was excited about it because I thought that it would help me to build my confidence so that I could go out into the world, and if anything happened to me, I could represent myself.”
Dalecia explained that the contestants had to get to know each other, and they all became very close.
“Doing steps was difficult at first because you had to wear high shoes and hold your head up,” she recalled.
As for winning Best Evening Wear, Dalecia was ecstatic “because the dress was beautiful”, she said, her mother adding that she had told designer Lester Welch what colours she wanted and that the style was not to fit “too close”.
Sponsored by Sandy Lane Charitable Trust, Dalecia also won Most Improved Contestant.
This teenager next wants to join The Experience Tent for this Crop Over Season. And why not? She has already won a locally held Gospelypso competition at her place of worship –– Shorey Village New Testament Church Of God, where she is a member of the worship team and drama group.
Her dream is to produce a CD “so that when I step out and sing, people can really be blessed by my singing”, the Christian commented. Her favourite artistes are Jude Heehaw Clarke, Cece Winans, Mary Mary and Donnie McClurkin.
Besides listening to gospel music and singing, Dalecia enjoys dancing and watching television.