In my experience, when I here about the issue of down syndrome, it is linked with new research to fix it or pre-natal testing to stop it; it rarely pertains to children who are diagnosed with the disorder having happy, successful lives.
The National Down Syndrome Congress Center’s website at http://www.ndsccenter.org/index.php paints a different story. While you can read about these research advancements, governmental programs and ideas, or learn more about the disorder, there are also links to news stories about children who have Down Syndrome who have helped institute new policies, triumphed in some skill, etc. I have highlighted a few of them here, however, I urge you to visit the site to read more.
Alicia Vitiello wanted to graduate with her friends in 2007 at Hanover Park High School. After all, she had been in the same classes with these students for the past twelve years, however, the old school board laws did not permit her to do so. Why? Well, she has Down Syndrome and will be attending high school (to get job training skills) until she is twenty-one. The school board law stated that only those students who have completed all course work at the school are able to walk at graduation. After quite a struggle between Alicia’s family and the school board, Alicia had the opportunity to walk at graduation and attend the after graduation party with her classmates. What is even more exciting is her triumphs have brought about “Alicia’s Law,” which would allow all disabled students to graduate with their peers after four-years regardless of whether they are leaving the school or not.
Selena Walters is a 19-year-old from Scranton, PA. While she has down syndrome, she has not let it hinder her passion for basketball. She plays on the high school varsity team under head coach, Roy Gibbs. In her debut on the court, she scored 5-points helping the team to their victory (you can see her score by visiting the Time-Tribune.com’s article). To me, what was even more incredible was the overwhelming support that she received from the community. An article was published in the local newspaper prior to the game, Thursday, and the stadium was packed with community members there to help support her through standing ovations, signs, and loud cheering.
Jeremy Brimer, who is 22 is about to move out of his parent’s house. While many 22 year olds make this same step into independence, Jeremy’s family never expected the possibility. Why? Because he was born with Down Syndrome. How is it possible? A program called Noah’s Ark that was designed and implemented to help disabled individuals gain independence. So far the organization has built three small group homes servicing nine individuals; however, they have big dreams of expanding. Currently they have plans to create a 120 unit group home community. Through partnerships with churches, Ryan Homes, schools, and donations; the cost of building these group homes have been cut nearly in half. However, these places are not hand-outs to those living in them. They still have to pay rent at about $157 a month, attend independent living training, and have jobs. While programs such as Noah’s Ark are only making a small dent in the disabled population who desires independent housing, they are definitely taking steps in the right direction.
Bruno, Laura. “Alicia Walkes: Disabled Student Joins Peers at Graduation.” Dailyrecord.com. 24 June 2007. 24 July 2007. < http://www.dailyrecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID= /20070624/ COMMUNITIES14/706240427>.
Myers, Marty. “On Top of the World.”The Time-Tribune.com. 9 February 2007. 24 July 2007. http://www.thetimes-tribune.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=17831070&BRD=2185&PAG=461& dept_id=416049&rfi=6.
Pera, Eric. “Group Home to Help Disabled Residents Gain a Life of Independence.” The Ledger Online. 27 April 2007. 25 July 2007. < http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20070427/NEWS/704270382/1134>.