In honor of the anniversary, I've compiled links to some truly amazing people with Down syndrome. As time and interest allows, please consider taking a peek at these extraordinary folks and what they've accomplished.
Role Models: Oh, my daughter, look what you can do. Down syndrome successes:
- Karen Gaffney attended regular classes at school (B average). She has an associate's degree and is a certified teacher's aide. She is a professional motivational speaker and travels across the country speaking to students, professionals, and self-advocates. She swam across the English Channel on a relay team. She is an amazing woman.
- Pablo Pienda "is the first person with Down Syndrome to obtain an university degree in Spain. His success was accompanied with constant struggle against prejudice. Not quite satisfied with such an achievement, he is currently studying educational psychology."
This guy is eloquent: First I do not consider that Down Syndrome is a disease. For me it is a personal characteristic. I am fine and healthy. We must not be treated as sick. There are other prejudices and you could write a book about them. There are reactions like pity, the misconception that we are not intelligent, and a long list of social and moral incorrect misinterpretations. Fortunately, we are overcoming some misconceptions. I am just doing my part and demonstrating that I am as competent as anyone.
- Aya Iwamoto is a Japanese woman with a bachelor's degree in English Literature. She is also fluent in French and has her librarian's license. Her parents hid her "handicap," even from her, until she was in college; then they began speaking publicly about her successes. Now she is an accomplished public speaker and has traveled all over the world talking about Down syndrome.
- Sujeet Desai graduated from high school with a 4.3 GPA and was a member of the national honor society. He went on to study at Berkshire Hills Music Academy and completed a two-year residential post-secondary program in Music and Human Services. Sujeet is a professional musician (6 instruments!) and self-advocate. He lives in an apartment with roommates and is engaged to be married.
- Emily is a teenaged artist whose paintings are for sale on eBay.
- There are many, many more success stories, and every year the odds are better, as more kids with Down syndrome are growing up in homes with families who love them and get them the early intervention they need. Google for Jason Kingsley (the actor and writer, not the computer game designer), Mitchell Levitz (author, speaker, advocate), beautiful Mia Peterson (who lives independently and far from family), and of course famous actor Chris Burke.
A recurring theme seems to be that several of these accomplished individuals have found that their biggest hurdle is not their Down syndrome, but rather is others' prejudices. I have learned so much over the past couple of years, and I am still learning. I am so glad that these brave souls are blazing a trail for my daughter.