Chip Reece loves comic books.

When his son, Ollie, was born, he couldn’t wait to introduce him to superheroes — larger-than-life characters to identify with and look up to. One roadblock existed: Reece couldn’t find a comic that featured a character with Down syndrome, the genetic condition doctors diagnosed Ollie with shortly before he was born. This didn’t seem fair.


“He deserves to have characters who are just like him, doing ‘super’ things,” Reece, 33 and living in Wichita, Kansas, told The Mighty in an email. “He should be able to dream just as big as anyone else, believe that anything is possible.”

For almost a decade, Reece has worked as a social worker, while writing comic book reviews for But as a father of a child with special needs, he decided it was time to transform his love for reading comics into a love for creating them — specifically for his son. So he began writing “Metaphase,” a graphic novel, illustrated by Kelly Williams, that features Ollie, a superhero with Down syndrome.

In “Metaphase,” Ollie’s superhero father at first only sees his son’s limitations. He tries to hold him back, at fear he’ll get hurt. So Ollie works to prove him wrong.

The biggest thing Ollie faces are the limits that are assumed of him,” Reece explained to in January. He wants the character to inspire kids like his now 4-year-old son. But he also wants to reach an audience of people (and parents) who may only see Down syndrome as a disability.

“I hope that readers will open their minds to the possibility that individuals with Down syndrome have,” he told The Mighty, “instead of defining them by their limits.”

To parents of kids newly diagnosed, he offers this:

“You will be blessed. They will be talented. He will inspire you. She will surprise you. They will play sports, act, sing, graduate high school, go to college, live on their own, work an more. Also, you will fall in love with them.”

“Metaphase” will be available this fall through Alterna Comics. You can preorder the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.


Becoming a team captain on a high school football team may mean a lot to some, but for two Texas teens with Down syndrome, it means the world.

Austin Waters and Blake Pyron, both incoming seniors, are water boys for the Sanger High School football team in Denton County, Texas. They’ve been helping the team on the sidelines for years. Last year, they proudly led the players out of the tunnel before each game, according WFAA.

Last week, the young men were given the surprise of their lives at a school assembly when they were named honorary team captains and given personalized jerseys. The powerful moment was captured in the video below.

“It lets him know he could do anything,” Mary Ann Pyron, Blake’s mother, says in the video. “He may need a little support here and there, but he can really do anything he wants to do.”

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I’ve been where you are, facing a scary unknown for my child. Nothing, nothing compares to the thick net of overpowering emotions that capture you as you deal with your child’s new diagnosis. Even if you suspected it.


I was pregnant with my youngest daughter when a level 2 ultrasound showed significant markers for Down syndrome. That happened a few days after I’d had a dream that my baby would be born with Down syndrome. We did not receive a definite diagnosis, but we knew it was a strong possibility. And yet, her birth is marred by the tears, the sadness, the anguish, the fear. Fear of the unknown.

What does her diagnosis mean to her? 
To our family? 
Will our family now be covered with limitations? 
How will this diagnosis affect sibling relationships? 
What will her future look like? 
What about mine? 
Will she live with us forever? 
Will she ever have a job? 
And why me?
Why me? 

There has to be a mistake, we cannot be one of those families that have kids with disabilities!

The pediatrician didn’t help. My midwife crying didn’t help. Hearing people say, “I’m sorry,” at least, to us, didn’t help. The message we seemed to hear from other people was, “This is bad, this is really, really bad.” And we had enough fear on our own, we didn’t need more fuel to the fire.

I don’t know the circumstances of how you found out about your child’s diagnosis, or if you are pregnant, if your child is an infant, a toddler, or a little older, but I suspect you might be wrestling with feelings and thoughts similar to mine. And it’s scary, it’s more than you can handle, it feels as if a vacuum sucked up all the happiness away from you. A nightmare becoming a reality.

I will not tell you that parenting a child with a special needs diagnosis is the same as parenting a typical child; it’s not. I won’t tell you that parenting a child with a special needs diagnosis is easy; it’s not (parenting never is). I won’t tell you that the challenges in raising a child with a disability are easy; they’re not. Parenting children with special needs does require a little more, and sometimes a lot more, depending on your child’s needs. But although this new life will be different, this is what I want you to know:

No doctor, no professional, no specialist can tell you what your everyday life will be like. Their expertise is limited to the medical field. Remember, a doctor sees the medical issues and emergencies, they only get to see a family in crisis or sickness or maintenance, they get to experience the worst case medical scenario. And while your child might face some medical issues now or in the future, your child is so much more than his/her medical diagnosis. Let me say that again, your child is so much more than his/her medical diagnosis.

Your child is, first of all, your child.
Your child will have gifts, 
a sense of humor, 
a personality of their own, 
a favorite color, 
a love for certain type of music, 
a favorite toy. 
They will be a person, their very own person, just like you and just like me. 
An individual made up of so much more than a diagnosis.

I know the diagnosis feels so big right now, but it won’t always be that way. It will get better. You will peel the sadness away, layer by layer. The lost dreams will be replaced with new dreams. Yes, you will have new dreams for your child! Your child will open up a world to you that will surprise you, it will be better than you imagined it would be. Your child will enrich your life, and the life of his/her siblings too.

See, unless someone else has walked in your shoes, nobody can tell you about 
the smiles, 
the celebration, 
the joy, 
the abundance of love. 
But I’ve been where you are, 
and I can tell you the light will come, 
joy will show up, 
love will take over. 
This fierce, deep, strong love.

Besides, nobody can tell you what your child’s sense of humor will be, or how his laugh will be deep and strong and make you laugh too.

Before my daughter was born, I really didn’t know much about Down syndrome, but the truth is I really didn’t know much about her either. I didn’t know that she would love to get in bed with me on Saturday mornings as we sip decaf coffee together. I didn’t know that she would love to dance to classical music. I didn’t know that she would fill my love tank with her hugs and love. I didn’t know that she would surprise her classmates in kindergarten by reading their names. I didn’t know that she would teach us what celebration feels and looks like. Before her, I didn’t know that life could be so full. She changed me.

And I want to leave you with a sentiment that has become dear to me, because I have found this to be true in the special needs journey… And you will, too, my friend.

You will experience shades of color that you never knew were possible.

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baby boy laying on couch in diaper Colton was born on September 12, 2012.

He was a big baby. But I already knew that.

He had a full head of hair, and after months of heartburn, I knew that too.

He also had Down syndrome and that, I did not know.

Over the course of Colton’s life thus far, I have learned so many things. I have met, I have inspired, I have been inspired, I have cried, I have been mad and I have cherished, with everything that I possess in me, my son, who has Down syndrome.

When we first started this journey together, there was nothing that could have prepared me for the heartache, the fear or the suffering that would take hold of me when the doctor first spoke those words. And neither could the speaking of those words ever prepare me for the beauty, the joy or the overwhelming love that I feel for my child.

The first things I think about when I wake up in the morning are my sons, and the last things that wonder across my thoughts as I am drifting off to sleep at night are my sons. They are the light of the universe to me, though they are as night and day to one another.

It was only after reflection however, that I was able to overcome the pain that Colton’s diagnosis brought to me and to my family. I had to fight to regain control of everything that I thought mattered most importantly in life.

It felt as if I had simply been struck down, flattened by some impossibly large tide that swept me far, far away from the place I thought I belonged to. But I was wrong.

Once I climbed out of that maelstrom, I found myself standing in stranger waters. But there was something different there. The light was just a little bit softer, the sounds a little bit louder. But the imagery, the landscape was constantly changing.

In one moment everything was clarity and sunshine, and in others it was hail and furious storm clouds.

I spent weeks shouting myself hoarse, screaming, pleading, begging with… the air maybe, to come and rescue me. I hid from the colors, and I hid from the powerful landscape that was all around me because it was so fierce in comparison with where I had come from.

But eventually I had to stop hiding, I had to come out or I would have sat in the dark forever, never understanding or fully realizing what had just happened to me.

So I stepped out, and I faced the storm. I clambered out of that dark pit and I brought myself up to face whatever dark and terrible thing was going to ruin my life for good here, in this strange place.

But nothing ever came.

No terrible monster ever shot out of the dark, no big bad beast ever showed its face. There was nothing in the dark places, nothing at all, but me. I was putting myself there, and if I wanted to be free of them, I just had to walk away.

So I did.

mom holding her baby I realized that there would be stormy days with my son, as there would be stormy days with his brother. I also had to force myself to realize that there will be just as many sunny days, and I cannot abide by slinking about, saddening myself over an idea that has passed me by.

Particularly when the one that stuck was so much better.

I will raise my son to the best of my ability, with my entire family at my back. Together, we will give Colton everything that he will ever need in life, and in return, we will get his smiling face, his big brown eyes, and his love and affection.

Is this not what every parent expects of their children?

Remi will have the same opportunities, the same love and devotion, the same wonderful memories, and some of them will be exclusively between the two of them.

I could not have asked for a better family, we fit like pieces to a puzzle. There are some days when I look at my sons, either of them, and ask myself how I got along without them in my life. It’s stunning to think that Remi is already in school, and Colton is already nearing two years old!

My heart feels as if it were about to burst sometimes, picturing the road we have taken, and imagining the journey yet to come. I know that one day soon these moments will just be memories, and I will find myself astonished, horrified, breathless and out of words as I realize that my boys are grown up. Then I have to laugh, because this means that one day I will be saddened at the loss of these days.

How ironic that I will soon covet the memories that we made here when not so long ago I was a hopelessly emotional wreck, sobbing my fears and sadness that my youngest was just a little bit different.

With time comes wisdom, I suppose.

I have taken such a winding journey that I wonder if everyone does this, or if I happened to take the scenic route. So many ups and downs and confusing states of mind that I cannot count them all, but as I look back over them, I realize they were all leading to one place.

I was always going to be okay.

When I gave birth to Colton all I could think about, over and over, was how his life was going to turn out. How my life was going to be. Everything seemed so terrible, dark and ugly. I could not wrap my mind around the situation; much less fathom a happy story for us.

I understand now that it was only the shock talking.

Almost two years later I am the happiest I have ever been in my life, and my sons are entirely to thank for that. My husband has stood at my side and we have grown closer and stronger than ever before because of the fear we faced together.

Is this not what we strive for in life?

I am today a much stronger, wiser, educated individual, and I would never have made it this far without the shove that Colton’s birth gave me. I would never have dreamed of creating a platform like Special Miracles, not in a million years.

But now that I have, I am saddened to think that if Colton had been born as anybody else, I would never have done it. I would never have met all of the wonderful people that have become a part of my life, or made some of the friendships that only happened because I was thrown into that circle of people by his diagnosis.

It would be like losing a limb.

How has this never been a part of my plan to begin with?

Life, certainly takes some strange and unexplainable twists, but where you wind up is half the surprise, I suppose. It has been a magnificent journey for me thus far. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. How could something that started out so terrifying become this, which is so delightful that I simply do not have the words to describe it?  I don’t have an answer for that, but I do have some words for any other parent who is going to go through it, or is in the process of going through it now.

That feverish, crushing despair will end. You will be happy again. Your child will light up your world, even if it takes time for you to see it.

Some events in life far outstrip the others when it comes to how deeply they affect us, and Down syndrome is high on that list, but it doesn’t bring the world to a stop.

Take it as a new direction, a fork in the road where you have a choice. You can be defeated, or you can defeat it. However you do that is entirely up to you, but there’s a reason that medical advances, medications, and laws pertaining to Down syndrome and other conditions like it are improving. More and more parents are choosing to fight, and along the way they are making strides in overcoming the stigmas and setbacks associated with raising a child with special needs. The diagnosis does not define your child,  they will define what it means to have Down syndrome as they grow.

And when the day comes where you wake up and realize that it just doesn’t matter as much as you thought it would, walk with your head high because you’ve done something many people claim they could never do themselves.

You’ve beaten the most frightening monster of all.

Your own fears.

two brothers posing outside


We’re lying in bed together just before she goes to sleep. She has her arm slung over my body. We look at each other. Face to face. Just the two of us. I start singing a song, and Polly joins in even though she doesn’t know the words. I sing, and she sings, and her relaxed attempt at joining in without knowing what she is doing and without realizing she should care sends a tickle down my throat. I break out into laughter and she joins in with that, too. We laugh until we can’t breathe. Tears stream down my face. Her smile is as wide as a waxing moon. I stare at her beautiful almond eyes and think, who would want to give this up?

They say that moments make up our lives.

If that’s true, then I best remember the good and the bad.

polly-car22-300x266 The bad: me looking away at her diagnosis of Down syndrome — her standing and falling over way past when she should be walking, a head shaking stroke in the middle of eating pancakes at Bob Evans, brain surgeries, her hand wobbly as she attempts to write her name, kids doting on her at school and then walking away to talk to their “real” friends, a little girl following us at the park asking, “What’s wrong with her?” and Polly, smiley, happy Polly struggling herself as she grows and attempts to figure things out. “Kids don’t like me, Mom. I’m different.”

But there is more to the story. Because for all the bad moments, there are a million good.

farm2-300x225 The good: Jumping out of bed every morning, “What’s going on today, Mom?” ready to accept the answer with joy and vigor, her sisters teaching their classmates about Down syndrome, Polly thanking the nurse after a shot, her hard-earned walk turning into a run, her body stopping and taking a deep breath when frustrated, the girls from her class coming to her cooking birthday party, her dash up to the front of the church to join her dad, hand raised and all, in the benediction, bothering her big sisters just like sisters would, getting up and singing to an auditorium of people, looking out for Evie when she is sad, her usual greeting of a smile and a hug regardless if she knows you or not, her little voice praying The Lord’s Prayer with the rest of the family, “Give us this day or daily bread,” her little hand warm on my cheek, “You are my best friend, Mom.”

Moments make up our lives, right?

Then I have to remember that the bad is just life. The bad moments have a purpose. The bad make the good that much better.

Polly’s good moments resoundingly beat out her bad. Oh, of course she is human; mean and selfish and sneaky. “Polly, are your toys cleaned up?” “Yes,” she lies, happily running on to her next activity.

But also, there’s this: she is a bell that rings daily. She was made to exude sunshine. She does her job well.


Seconds after we are crying from hilarity, she is fast asleep. She’s been known to fall asleep mid-sentence.

She lives hard and well and falls asleep fast.

What more could a mother want? I must remember moments like this.

Moments make up our lives.

This post originally appeared on Gillian Marchenko’s personal blog.

Austin Coppola simply wouldn’t accept his high school diploma — unless his twin brother, Ty, was standing next to him on stage.

The 17-year-old told his mom that Ty, who has Down syndrome, deserved the honor just as much.

“Mom, Ty has worked harder than me, he has endured more challenges,” Austin told his mother, Cheryl, according to WHAM. “Yeah, I’ve earned it, I worked hard, but he has worked hard in a different way.”

Fairport High School agreed. At the June 26 graduation, both Austin and Ty donned caps and gowns and walked across the stage to accept Austin’s diploma. WHAM caught the emotional moment on tape (below). We’re guessing there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

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