Melody Forsyth, a well-known advocate in the outdoor industry for special needs, talks with us about her challenges around food, and how to encourage parents to get their kids outside. Melody’s daughter Ruby has Trisomy 21, and finding healing outdoors is a family affair.
Tell me about your journey with food.
One of our biggest struggles is that our daughter, Ruby, can’t swallow “regular” food. We have to follow something called a “soft-mechanical” diet, meaning everything has to be a similar texture. We’ve had a couple scary moments, but usually things are fine as long as we pay attention. AKA, planning ahead for meals 100% of the time.
Ruby will sometimes get frustrated because she can’t have much variety, so we love finding things that taste good, are made from real food, and reinforce that she can participate. For us, hiking snacks have been a big deal. We usually throw soft foods like bananas, cheerios, or Taos Bakes into the pack to take with us.
There’s also a big issue with communication, because most people understand dietary restrictions, but they don’t understand that someone could have issues with texture. It takes a lot of effort to explain this, and it’s always cool to find parents that are on a similar journey.
We constantly find inspiration from our customers. What makes you disruptively different?
I recognize that the outdoors typically looks one way at this point in society. Most of the women that are recognized for hiking aren’t my size. I’ve learned not to judge others (or myself) based on appearance. This became particularly important in raising a daughter with down syndrome. She doesn’t ‘look the part,’ and yet, every single day she’s proving me wrong.
I had a conversation a week ago with a friend that’s always been nervous to go hiking. She was afraid she couldn’t do it, or would have to take too many stops, or people would judge her. With some encouragement, she took the leap, loved it, and has now started inviting other folks too.
It’s amazing to play a small part in helping women get over their fear and past their discomfort. And then they become advocates themselves!
What would you say to someone that has trouble getting their kids outside?
Great question! I think it’s a couple things. First, lower your expectations around what the day has to be. Your kids might not be in for the long haul of a four-mile hike, but they’ll probably thrive on just visiting the local playground for an hour. Use what’s in your backyard, and start with small steps!
The other thing that’s been really rewarding for our family is involving the kids in the planning. Let them have a say, and dictate where they want the day to go. “Do you want the park, a museum, a waterfall?” We’ve seen this work with the younger ones, AND the bored teenager. Nine times out of ten, they don’t come home and say, “Ugh, I wish we hadn’t done that.”
Finally, stop talking, and just do it. Be the parent that puts up your phone and chooses to be present. You just might be surprised by what happens.
Follow Melody’s journey on Instagram: @downwithadventure.