Meet the Down Syndrome support group for parents & children in Dorset

SHINE 21 Dorset is a buddy support group for children and young people with Down Syndrome, and their families. 

They regularly meet across Dorset, providing support and organising group activity trips – such as kayaking, theatre classes, and a big visit to Legoland. 

It was founded in 2017 by Liz Chilton and Tara Gool, who both have daughters with Down Syndrome. 

Chilton, mum to Clara, 11, said: “When you have a baby with down syndrome you feel totally isolated.

“We really want our kids to be able to gain lifelong friendships.

“The families love the group, they all support each other.”

Clara and her mum, co-founder Liz Chilton

Clara and her mum, co-founder Liz Chilton

A child with Down Syndrome can have a big impact on a family; helping parents adjust and providing them with support is very important to the retired nurse. 

“I had a prenatal diagnosis and I’ll be honest, I was absolutely devastated.

“But then I thought, she’s here now so I’ll just have to get on with it.

“She is who she is and she is amazing. She just gives us so much happiness.”

Chilton, who lives in Sherborne, knows how important it is to talk about Down Syndrome in a supportive way. 

“The doctor used awful language, like ‘mentally retarded’.

“I thought, you’re talking a load of rubbish and I’m not listening to you.

“As a new parent, you’re so worried about your children. 

“When I went to the first baby group, I was so nervous, but you get support from other parents.”

Shine 21 have started their own baby group at Moreton Village Hall. 

Oliver, patron of Shine 21

Oliver, patron of Shine 21

The group also includes children with a dual diagnosis, such as those with Down Syndrome and Autism. 

“They might need more care, but we welcome them. 

“Just come and let them have fun.”

October marks Down Syndrome Awareness Month, to learn more you can visit:

The best place to see events or get in touch with Shine 21 Dorset is on their Facebook page:

Alternatively, you can email

Lillie and her mum, co-founder Tara Gool

Lillie and her mum, co-founder Tara Gool

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