Kip Morse's first daughter, Allison, was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth and later, autism. Tremendous behavioral issues forced him into being the family's peacekeeper. Now he's finally finding peace as his daughter realizes her purpose.
To me, Kip has been a mentor and the leading example of a father’s impenetrable love for his daughter. The father of three daughters and husband to Leslie for more than 30 years, he was forced into being the servant leader of the family. Many times breaking it up and standing between his daughter and the rest of the family when things got out of control. And now, as his daughter finds her own way and purpose, relief and reconnection.
At the time we recorded this story, Kip was the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio which has been a client of mine for the past several years. He's now the CEO of the IABBB.
We open our story at the breaking point for Kip and the entire family, including his oldest daughter, Alison. It’s Alli’s last night before she starts her journey away from the family.
Tears streaming, mom and dad taking turns in the room with Alli, neighbors coming over to say bye, and even Alison is aware that her next move is the right move.
At birth, Alli was diagnosed with Down syndrome, a crucial moment that forced the family to move back to Columbus, Ohio away from Florida
In time, they realized that Alli’s Down syndrome was not typical, her behavior was extremely challenging
Temper tantrums, lying on the floor of the supermarket, throwing things, taking his wife Leslie to the ground, pulling hair...
Later Alli was diagnosed with autism
There was no local solution -- institutionalizing Alli was not ever an option
The behavior caused a riff between Alli and the family
Finally, they found a solution for Alli a few hours away in Cleveland - her behavior would not be an issue to the caregivers (Monarch Center for Autism)
Alli went to Monarch and Kip and Leslie drove up every single weekend for two years
The separation gave Kip and Leslie a chance to work on their relationship and the relationship with the other two daughters
Kip realized that he had been enabling Alli’s behavior, in a way
“Boy, it’s hard to get it right when you’re going through it.”
Stress caught up with Kip - he nearly had a heart attack
Being independent brought the fun and joy of Alli back
A few years later, Alli came back to Columbus under the care of Ability Matters
Looking back, Kip is glad he didn’t know what was ahead of him in life when his daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome
It’s purpose that lights Alli up the most these days -- that same truth has translated into the business world, as well
“I recall it vividly because it was constantly having communications with my daughter and my wife, and consoling one another, and tears streaming down our faces. And it was this realization that, you know, twenty-three years of trying to get Allison to be at a point where she was happy, and she was independent, and where she could live a life with with a strong self-esteem and and purpose. And we hadn't gotten there, and it wasn't within our control anymore. Your sisters all are in an apartment," and you'd see her brighten up because she wants to be just like her sisters. And so there's constantly those ups and downs with the understanding.”
“And so I rushed back, and that's when the doctor came in and said, "You know, we see signs that she has... she was born with Down syndrome." And you don't know anything about that. You just know you're just looking at your new baby girl with total love and devotion. And so, yeah, we were just kind of stunned. You know, you don't know what to what to think.”
“And so the diagnosis went from Down syndrome to all of these leading up to pervasive developmental disorder, which was kind of the interim period of time before they finally said that autism is such a vast spectrum that she's just on the spectrum of autistic, which carries the OCD and the anxiety and the mood disorder.”
“We wanted to get her to the point where she was independent. And she was high functioning, she's capable of incredible things. And so she knew that that's not what she wanted.”
“And then she would tell us, she goes, "I'll be all right when you leave. Just so you know, I'll be all right." She wanted to make sure that we weren't going to cry when we were leaving, because she understood that it was just as hard for us. And so she would always tell us, " I'm going be all right. I'll be all right. I'll see you next weekend."
“It was the first time away. And it was, you know, after a while, you know, you think it'll get to some sort of normal. But really, I don't know what normal is. But, you know, I have been seen as the one that spent more time with Alli, showcased more love for Alli, because I was always the one that was having to try to reduce the amount of stress on everybody else, and break up the fighting. And what that turns into is I'm enabling. And so it was another one of those, "Boy, it's hard to get it right when you're going through it."”
“And so the pain that she was feeling of leaving us, which we were feeling, she was also really excited, like any individual, like any child that's leaving to go to college or live on their own, it's like, "Finally I can live on my own." They just, you know, with with special needs, they just need a little bit more help and guidance and structure”
"I'd probably ask God to take that out of my memory, because I think I don't want to go into the biggest challenge, knowing what I have in front of me. So you know the old saying, "take it one day at a time," I mean, that's the way you've got to take it because you don't know what the next day's gonna be.”
“Well, I think that appreciating everybody's value, and respecting everybody is really critical to me. If you feel as though somebody doesn't respect you or doesn't love you or doesn't care about what you're saying, then you feel minimized.”
“People in the business community need the same thing. They need to celebrate successes, and they need recognition, and they need to feel proud of the work that they put in meant something to somebody. And that's what, when we see that in her, especially in the last couple of years, it's just, everybody gets happy and everybody starts to feel for how much harder she's had to work to to get that recognition.”