by Beth Nodland
Roxane Romanick brings a heart full of hope and head full of information to families facing the diagnosis of a child with a disability. In situations where the diagnosis is Down syndrome, she arrives with a warm smile and personal experience—her daughter Elizabeth has DS—her arms loaded with a handmade quilt and gift bags full of books and information about the genetic condition.
Roxane is one of the driving forces behind Designer Genes of North Dakota, a local Down syndrome support network. She also serves as an Experienced Parent Specialist for the Bismarck Early Childhood Education Program; a Family Liaison for the North Dakota Division of Developmental Disabilities Early Intervention program; is a founding member of the Early Intervention Family Alliance, a national board focused on Federal policy development; and is active on the state legislative level supporting disability issues.
No matter what professional or volunteer hat she wears, Roxane has a unique talent. The ability to guide families through the confusion of agencies, paperwork and emotions a disability diagnosis brings, and help them connect with a supportive community.
Roxane and Sharon Goodman, another parent of a child with Down syndrome, reinvigorated Designer Genes in 1999, a group started over 20 years ago by Bismarck area families. Designer Genes has grown its membership by reaching out to new families and has continued to grow its services. The group will host its 7th annual Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome Awareness on Saturday, September 18, at the State Capitol Grounds.
The birth of Roxane’s daughter Elizabeth revitalized her passion for Early Intervention, which are services provided to families of children with disabilities from birth to age 3. She cares deeply for the positive impacts early intervention services have on families. “If we can make the path into service easier, smoother, there is so much information that experts have,” she says. Roxane is able to think through services and supports with families and help them balance the social and emotional stress, along with overflow of information about their diagnosis and needed medical services. Her strategy is to get people on their feet and moving, to help identify the supports families need, and to work to get them in place.
Hers is a vision of the future. When driving around Bismarck, Roxane looks for a cozy old house that might become a family resource center. A place stocked with a full coffee pot, a comfy sofa, a library, and a staff who can pool experiences and resources to benefit families. A space where groups like Designer Genes can to do their work for families of people with disabilities; where families can get support around special health issues; where physicians can be informed; where training, technology and literary supports are available.. A space, a network, a community, that is inclusive of and accessible to people with disabilities and especially one that is protective of the families.
Roxane Romanick is also a proud dance and hockey mom. Her son, Nick, 19, a recent draft by the Bismarck Bobcats, and daughter Elizabeth, 11, is active in dance and Girls Scouts. Her husband, Bruce, sits as a South Central District Judge and is retired from the US Army Reserves.