Yesterday our readers Trigmund Freud and texasagl2009 posted a link to an inspiring article about a couple with Down syndrome. Here are some excerpts:
The story of Austin Davenport and Christi Hockel began with an abnormality in their genes, the presence of an extra 21st chromosome, or Down syndrome.
What that diagnosis meant to their parents was a million dreams that seemed suddenly lost. Kindergarten. Prom. Graduation. The grief almost swallowed them, and then it toughened them, and then it taught them to forsake the children they had longed for, and instead accept the ones they had.
If they hadn’t done that, if they hadn’t recast their dreams and rebuilt their plans, there never would have been a first kiss or a walk down the aisle.
Reader Sleuth sent me another link:
Toni, now a senior at Loveland High, was crowned queen at Loveland's prom April 30. And her friend, Drew Anderson, also a senior with Down syndrome, was crowned king by their classmates.
A royal prom couple who both had disabilities is a first for Loveland and likely for most Cincinnati area schools. But it's not unprecedented.
Increasingly, students in mainstream high schools are honoring their special-needs peers at school events, said Michelle Diament, cofounder of Disability Scoop LLC, a website based in Memphis, Tenn., that covers news about developmental disabilities.
There are 6.6 million schoolchildren with disabilities; 60 percent of them spend most of their school day in classes with typical students, according to U.S. Department of Education statistics.
Attitudes are changing, but many parents had to swim against the current to help their children with special needs achieve their full potential. In August 2009, I wrote a post about high achievers who happen to have Down Syndrome. I would like to show them again:
Chris Burke, born August 26, 1965, in Point Lookout, New York, is an American actor with Down syndrome, best known for his character Charles "Corky" Thatcher on the television series Life Goes On.
His parents were told to institutionalize him when he was born, but they decided to raise him at home and nurture his talents. He was encouraged to follow his career objectives no matter how untraditional they seemed for a young man with Down syndrome. His siblings also worked with him. Many were surprised at how bright Burke was when he entered formal schooling.
Blair Williamson was born with Down syndrome weighing 3 lbs. 6 oz. He had 9 surgeries by the time he was 5 years old and didn't walk until he was nearly 4 years old. By the time he was a healthy 10 year old he was running 400 meters for Special Olympics. His ability to run got him a lead role in a national commercial for Procter and Gamble in 1990.
Blair has been running to jobs ever since. He guest starred on "The Guardian," co-starred on "ER" and he has been murdered on "CSI" and had his nose done on "nip/tuck." His film credits include a co-star role on USA's "My Antonia," as well as many independent features and shorts. Blair is most proud of his work on the feature film "Unknown," to be released in 2006, where he plays the janitor. The role was physical and demanding.
When Andrea Fay Friedman was born in Los Angeles on June 1,1970, nobody would have predicted that she would become a well-known actress and public speaker, go to college, hold a job, drive a car and live a full and independent life. Because Andrea was born with Down syndrome, the pediatrician told her parents to send her straight to an institution because she would not develop beyond the mental age of four or five. Her parents, Harold and Marjorie Friedman, ignored the doctor's advice, took Andrea home, loved her, taught her and worked to help her develop to her full potential.
[Andrea was at the centre of a controversy involving Sarah Palin when she voiced a character with Down syndrome in an episode of Family Guy. Sarah Palin was the butt of a joke in the program, but she used Trig to go on the attack, as usual...]
When Jane Cameron was diagnosed with Down syndrome at four months old, Jane's parents were told their daughter was "retarded" and that they should: "Put her in an institution and forget about her." They were shocked and, despite knowing little to nothing about Down syndrome they decided that what their child needed was as much love, care and education as they could possibly give her.
Although her artistic talent was not discovered until Jane was about twenty, her tapestries now hang across the world. Jane's embroidered tapestries are glowing statements of her imagination and her love and affection for all living things. A life that could have been a tragedy became one of joy for Jane's parents and hope for other parents of children with Down syndrome.
27-year-old Sujeet Desai is an accomplished musician born with Down syndrome. Sujeet plays six instruments. Bb and Bass clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Violin, Piano and drums. In June 2001 he graduated from high School with honors and in May 2003 from the Berkshire Hills Music Academy in Massachusetts after two-year residential Post-secondary study in Music and Human services. Sujeet travels around the world to do his inspirational solo performances and self-advocacy workshops.
Michael Jurogue Johnson has been painting fulltime for nine years. This gifted artist was born with Down syndrome, but he was also born with an inherited artistic talent. His family tree is filled with artists, engineers, and classical musicians.
When he graduated from public school at the age of 21, Michael decided to become a fulltime artist, rather than working in a sheltered workshop. Michael learned how to paint by painting every day, building on what he had learned in school, and experimenting.
Raymond Hu is a twenty-one-year-old artist residing in Alamo, CA. Born with Down syndrome, Raymond graduated from San Ramon Valley High School, Danville, California in summer 1996, where he was enrolled in a full inclusion program for four years. Since Sept. 1996, he has been attending a Transistion Program in the high school, and taking art and other classes at Diablo Valley College and Laney College.
Raymond has been studying Chinese brush painting with renowned San Francisco artist Lampo Leong since 1990. He has developed a uniquely free and expressive style of painting that has won much critical acclaim. In the last few years, he has concentrated on painting animals, ranging from lions to tigers, lizards, elephants, birds, and fish. He uses photos of animal images as models, but his interpretation is quite unique. The medium he uses is ink and watercolor applied with round brush on thin absorbant rice-paper.
Born in Nashville TN with Down Syndrome, Bernadette Resha has become well known in the art community worldwide.
Her exposure to the art world and culture started as a child attending as many art galleries, museums, concert halls and plays as her time would allow.
From an early age she was encouraged to draw and color in her own style as a form of expression and therapy. This has resulted in a body of work which documents an artist developing a unique style entirely her own.
With an artist grandmother and a mother fully committed to allowing her to use this medium of self expression for as far as she would care to take it, Bernadette now exhibits in numerous art galleries, art and craft shows throughout south east and attends many conventions throughout the United States showing and selling her work.
An Alaskan reader (thank you, AJ) drew my attention to the work of a young Alaskan artist who has Down syndrome:
Brown Bear Products is a family run business that was set up in 1998 to show and sell the art of Erik David Behnke, a young Alaskan visual artist that lives in Homer on the coast of beautiful Kachemak Bay.
The plan of this business has always been to help artists with disabilities. At this stage, it mainly focuses on Erik David Behnke, a visual artist with Down Syndrome and autism. It has a section to link to other artists with Downs and autism.
The parents of many of these very talented and productive people were advised to place them in institutions because "they were retarded and would not achieve anything". This kind of advice was given many years ago.
Trig was born in a different world, but his own so-called mother seems to believe he won't amount to very much, or she wouldn't have written (in the voice of God) : "in fact Trig will - in some diagnostic ways - always be a mischievous, dependent little brother, because I created him a bit different than a lot of babies born into this world today." If she belived in his potential when she wrote this passage: "Every child is created special, with awesome purpose and amazing potential," she wouldn't have used him as an example of a person with a low “level of productivity in society” when facing Obama’s “death panels”.
Trig is one of the 6.6 million children with special needs in the US. Considering his mother's attitudes, he is unlikely to be among the 60% who will attend regular school. Trig's value to Sarah Palin is enhanced if he remains special and dependent. Trig doesn't have a good advocate and the possibility of leading an independent life, supporting himself, driving a car or getting married is not part of his mother's agenda.
We have the opportunity to follow the progress of some children with Down syndrome whose parents see them in a very different light:
hang on little tomato
Girl in a Party Hat
Teeny Tiny Hopkins