When a Cashier Reminded Me My Son Has Down Syndrome

Sometimes I forget that our son has Down syndrome. It’s easy to be distracted by his 2-year-old tantrums, his mischievous smile and go-getter attitude. Gabe is kindhearted but stubborn. He immediately runs to check on his sister when she’s having a dramatic, I’m-4-and-the-world-is-over meltdown. He will climb onto your lap randomly and stretch his little fingers up to stroke your cheek, just to say, “I love you.”

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He also destroys things. Opens drawers, pulls things out, throws them on floor. When you confront him, he ducks his head and looks up from under his eyebrows with a sort of sorry smirk. He helps pick up, sometimes, or wanders off to destroy something else. He loves music; he’ll start to dance the second he hears it. He absolutely cannot resist participating in a round of “Itsy Bitsy” or “Twinkle Twinkle,” no matter how upset he may have been seconds before. Gabe can make music from anything, even the fireworks during the Fourth of July celebration.

Sometimes I forget, because Gabe is just that — Gabe. When I look at him I don’t see Down syndrome, I see my son, Abi’s brother — a sweet, willful, determined little boy.

Sometimes I forget, and that makes it even harder when someone reminds me in a not so kind way.

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Like the cashier who gave me sad eyes and spit poison in a whisper, “I bet you wish you had known before he came out. You know they have a test for that now…”

Shock, horror, hurt and fury coursed through my body. I considered jerking her over the register and beating her senseless. I looked her up and down; I could take her.

Instead I used wit. I smiled a crazy lady smile. “I know right?! It’s so much harder to get rid of them once they come out. Believe me I’ve tried…” Jackpot! Her mouth dropped open, and she stared at me in shock. I leaned over the register and whispered to her, “What you’re saying is that it’s OK for me to kill him while he’s inside but not outside? In my book there isn’t a difference. For the record, we knew everything about him during my pregnancy. He’s our son now, and he was our son then. There is no way in hell that I would let any harm come to either of my children, including during the time that they’re so ridiculously considered disposable.”

I’d forgotten that sometimes other people don’t immediately see Gabe, they see a “downs kid.” They see poor parents and a burdened sister. I sometimes forget until I glance up and see the pity in their eye or hear the ignorant comments in not-so-hushed whispers.

I sometimes forget that it’s not their fault. They just don’t know.

Baby boy seated in a car seat

I sometimes forget that was me once too. What I knew about Down syndrome before we had Gabe was what I’d learned from my nursing text books. It was only enough to leave me sobbing hysterically and envisioning a listless, immobile, incapable child.

Because I sometimes forget why months like October are so important to me. It gives our community a chance to spread awareness, to educate the public, to debunk the myths that are out there and show our children in a different light. It gives us a chance to move forward from just awareness to acceptance, so when we’re out in public and we are so taken by our children that we forget, that we aren’t reminded and shocked by the ignorance of others.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our kids have Down syndrome. To us they’re just Gabe or AJ or Gavin or Max or Maddie. And that’s how it should be and will be if we continue to bring awareness and fight for acceptance –not just in October but every day of the year.

This post originally appeared on Hand Me Downs.

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The Moment I Stopped Mourning and Started Being a Mother to My Son With Down Syndrome

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At 4:13 p.m. on a random Thursday in September 2002, the woman I was exchanged places with the one I had to become. It was not a heroic decision; it was not a decision at all — I was jolted. Alarms and guttural fear heralded the event and an overwhelming desire to will survival into another human being overtook any pain I experienced. This was quickly followed by the murky realization that I was secondary to the existence of a six-pound baby struggling, grasping and clutching to remain in this world. It jarred me from a past where I believed in white picket fences.

My son, Quinn’s, birth was not one of gentle memories and swaddled joy. It was one of rushing and flailing. He entered the world without a sound; he could not announce his arrival with the typical cries of a newborn; he was drowning in his own fluid. Before that day, I didn’t even know he was a boy, and I didn’t know his birth and death had the chance of being closely entwined. 

He started life troubled, not thriving, and I was unprepared — unprepared for my thoughts to immediately turn to “take me instead of him,” even though I wouldn’t see until many hours later. I didn’t need to see or hold him; I was a mom, and I wanted to breathe life into him. Medical personnel ripped my baby from me and rushed him to Pic lines, chest tubes and ventilators before I even got the chance to touch his cheek and revel in the miracle. He was somewhere fighting. 

As I lay on the table in the recovery room, people spoke and I heard pieces of muffled conversations referencing priests, baptisms and last rites. “He can’t go before I meet him,” I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t find my voice. I knew I couldn’t leap from the bed because I just had a cesarean section. Flashes of light and memories interrupted me while I continued searching my mind for comfort. The unfamiliar faces that entered and exited my room offered no information. I wanted to crawl to Quinn; I wanted to grasp my baby from the clutches of death and run — run with him to a place where I could cradle him from the harsh entrance and struggles of his first minutes. 

I made it to my room later that evening in a blur of familial tears and embraces. Standing up from the confines of my hospital bed while grasping the IV pole, I willed myself to take steps.  In those first dark, hazy hours, I raged at the unfolding drama. My anger and disbelief flowed outward, and I wished for others to feel my pain.  These moments still wrack my memory at times — moments when my soul showed a capability to turn evil. As I listened to nurses wheeling the white-picket-fence babies to the waiting arms of exultant parents, I wanted to extinguish their joy. The sound of those squeaky wheels on the freshly waxed linoleum served as a constant reminder that my son would never make an appearance in my doorway, and I wanted them silenced. Those parents didn’t deserve these gentle moments more than I did, and I yearned for what I rightly deserved.  During those hours, I questioned any faith that remained. I cursed God and demanded deliverance from the dark. Finally, the nurse agreed to wheel me to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Once again I was unprepared — unprepared for the intensity of my love for this baby boy covered in wires, tape and tubes. That was the beginning of the journey of building our white picket fence. At 2:33 a.m. on the day after my son’s birth, I touched his small, swollen and bruised hand and found my new builder. 

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The next morning brought our first obstacle; I had to mourn the child that would never be.       

In a suffocating and institutionalized room beside the NICU, a genetic counselor opened her chart of chromosomes and announced in a cold and matter-of-fact manner that my son had Down syndrome. That’s when I hit the floor — literally and figuratively. Familiar hands cradled my splintered mind and body and gently placed me back in my wheelchair. Watching the counselor’s mouth moving, I heard nothing, as every corner of my mind filled with the “what-ifs.” As family members stared motionless at the news, the invasion of thoughts included, “He will never attend a prom, go to college or get married. I am not this mother. I am not this strong.  I am defeated.” 

I didn’t know until years later why I projected so far into the future; I now know it was the beginning of the mourning. My son would never be the baby I hoped to welcome. My support system offered kindness and comfort, but ultimately nobody helps someone with that realization; I had to go straight through the grief. The intensity of the emotions in that small room almost broke me. Because of those frozen minutes, I understand the insurmountable weight that sorrow can bring. Those moments I spent under the poundage of lost dreams smothered me; I climbed and thrashed back to the faces staring at me. 

My son had Down syndrome. Down syndrome. I repeated the words to myself over and over trying to digest my new reality. 

Focusing on the dim lights and stained walls, I strained to stay with the conversation. When the genetic counselor entered the room from the hallway, the air left the room, and I found myself searching for oxygen.  Then I realized that in the next room my son wrestled in the same way, and I woke up.  That moment was the beginning of collecting splintered dreams and starting to build a new version of a white picket fence. Quinn was on the other side of the wall, and I inched through the tangles of medical terminology and uncomfortable change. I don’t remember who followed me, but I remember sitting and gazing into the face of a baby that couldn’t yet open his eyes, couldn’t support his own breath and couldn’t reach for me, and I changed.

The change occurred forcefully and within seconds. Without doubt, I determined that I would find strength because this boy deserved a mother that believed in his possibilities before he could do it for himself. Over the endless hours of that second day, I sat. I sat and spoke softly, stroked his beaten arm and solidified a bond. I connected with my son; it was different than expected, but it was our way.

Over the next days that turned into weeks, the most important moments of my life became watching numbers on machines. I monitored oxygen levels and heart rates while reading, studying and asking questions about medical terms and situations I never wanted to know. I spoke with doctors, counselors and experts in order to piece all the information together and learned how to keep building our fence. On Quinn’s fifth day, I left the hospital and Quinn stayed where he would for many weeks. The chill invaded my lungs as I walked out of the revolving door, and the endless tears started. In the car ride on the way home, I stared at the passing cars and the nonchalant people going about everyday tasks and the anger made it back to my thoughts. But, Quinn’s face flashed before me and the anger subsided. As has occurred countless times since his first day, he calmed my restlessness. His face stayed in my mind during those dense and dismal moments in the deepest part of the nights when the phone calls from the NICU shattered the silence. The nurses with updates — some depressing and some encouraging — the communication carried me through the night. Every day I rose and made my way to that face. My son. My reason.   

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The building of our new fence required that I learn the gentle ebb and flow of Quinn’s timeframe. Many days he and I took steps back only to step forward the next day. I learned significant lessons about myself and those around me. Previously, I always searched for the next goal or step, but with Quinn, I learned how to exist in the moment and savor every success. Quinn’s presence in my life gave me perspective on the importance of working on my fears and weaknesses while developing into the mom Quinn deserved.  

quinnandme Above all, I learned that strength grows when life destroys old dreams. I spent countless hours over the years in hospital rooms, in therapists’ offices and in improvised places of prayer. Additional diagnoses and health concerns arrived, and, at times, questions of fairness and faith clouded choices and blurred our vision. This never lasted long; Quinn kept me focused and we kept building. The many nights spent sitting and watching Quinn sleep carried me when life gutted my hopes and flung me to my knees. His tender presence in my life softened the blows and healed my wounds. People close to me shattered my spirit and walked out; however, those of stronger character and resolve entered my life. The baby I mourned in those first days traded places with a boy full of infinite possibilities who could accomplish all the things I foolishly dismissed in my mind as not possible.  Quinn created everything I am, everything I strive to accomplish and everything pure and compassionate in my spirit.

Ten years ago and fallen with fear, I yearned for a white-picket-fence life; if I could go back and hold the woman I was then, I would tenderly whisper in her ear, ”Quinn will be a fighter, a giver of unconditional love, a stubborn force, a singer of ‘Jingle Bells’ in the middle of July and a savior. The trials will come, but so will a childhood that lingers a bit longer.” 

If I could go back to those first tumultuous minutes, I would not silence the sirens or dim the fear because those moments are the ones that proved a catalyst for my transformation. Within frightening and frenzied moments exist opportunities for priceless gifts. People often say to me, “God gave you Quinn because you are strong enough to be his mother.” The reality is that Quinn gifted himself to me because I needed direction and purpose. He is my teacher and guide.  I’m better because he reaches for my hand and holds it while he walks beside me. Quinn teaches me every day the importance of living a life of vibrant color and enthusiastic existence and that white picket fences belong on other people’s lawns.    

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Disney Finally Responded to This Mom's Petition to Get Characters With Down Syndrome in Disney Movies

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Update: Disney recently responded to the petition, saying the studio is “committed to continuing to create characters that are accessible and relatable to all children,” according to a post by Ott-dahl on ThePetitionSite.com. Ott-dahl says she still plans to deliver the petition in person on November 26th.

This mother is making a bold stand against a major corporation.

Keston Ott-Dahl is asking Disney to put characters with Down syndrome in its animated films. The 48-year-old author and activist from Antioch, California, started a petition towards the effort earlier this month. So far, it’s received overwhelming support.

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Ott-Dahl has a 15-month-old named Delaney Skye, who has Down syndrome, as well as a 6-year-old named Jules, she told The Mighty. The siblings love to watch Disney movies together. One day, Jules told her mother she was sad because Delaney could never be a princess — after all, there are no princesses with Down syndrome. After trying to reassure her daughter, Ott-Dahl realized she was right. That’s when she decided to do something about it.

“I want to give Delaney role models,” Ott-Dahl told The Mighty. “I want to give her a princess she could grow up to be like.”

The petition was started on the first day of October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and so far it’s collected more than 40,000 signatures. Ott-Dahl originally hoped for a thousand signatures, but then quickly realized she was on to something big when the website exceeded this amount in the first hour. Now, she hopes to exceed 100,000 signatures to ensure that the corporation cannot ignore the cause.

Ott-Dahl plans to visit the park with her family in November and try to hand the petition over to officials there. She’s been working with Care2.org and other parent activists to try and get in contact with Disney to secure a meeting. So far, she says, the company has been unresponsive.

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But Ott-Dahl remains hopeful and believes that Disney movies depicting characters with disabilities will help increase understanding and compassion in our society, especially among children.

“What we hope for is that as small children grow up watching these films they’ll have a familiarity, a compassion and an understanding that will help stop discrimination before it begins,” she told The Mighty.

To sign the petition and add your voice to the thousands asking Disney to represent children with Down syndrome in animated movies, visit this site. Follow Delaney Skye on Facebook for updates.

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Read more stories like this on The Mighty:
Disney Princesses With Disabilities Inspires Kids to Be Proud of Their Differences
Little Boy Inspires Dad to Create Comic Book Character With Down Syndrome
These Parents Found a Beautiful Way to Teach Kids About Down Syndrome

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Is Down Syndrome a Promise of Happiness or a Curse?

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I’ve been on this Down syndrome path for three and a half years now (including the prenatal diagnosis), and it’s interesting to me to see the two ditches that people often fall into when describing Down syndrome.

Ditch #1
It’s a condition. It’s a curse. It’s a defect/mistake. It’s horrible. It will ruin your life.

Ditch #2
Down syndrome is completely amazing! It totally rocks! It will blow your mind with awesomeness! It’s like dipping a unicorn in sprinkles and tying it up in a rainbow!

I call them ditches because in my experience as a mother to a child with Down syndrome, neither of these is our reality with Down syndrome. Is it a curse? NO. Is it all smiley faces and glitter? Equally NO.

Oftentimes I see parents combatting the very offensive Ditch #1 with Ditch #2, making life with Down syndrome seem over-the-top incredible, placing a beautiful quilted rug over the scratches on the floor, dimming the lights, lighting candles so that the harsh light of reality can be softened by edited pictures and carefully crafted sentences. It’s as if we’re all afraid if we admit it’s anything less than perfection every second of every day, everyone will assume we don’t love our children or somehow regret their existence.

Looking back over my past three years of blogging, I’m pretty sure I can be accused of falling into Ditch #2 on more than one occasion. It was part of my journey. I started in Ditch #1, swung too far to Ditch #2 and slowly, over time, crawled my way out with a more objective view of this Down syndrome thing.

I’m not here to accuse anyone of misrepresentation or call out blogs I feel are mostly hype, but I’m here to share with you what I’ve learned. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I live this reality every single day, and I wanted to share a few thoughts.

1. Down syndrome is.

It’s not a poison working to ruin lives or something projecting fairy dust all around — it just is. It occurs in all kinds of families that all respond to the diagnosis differently, live with the diagnosis differently, look forward to the future after the diagnosis differently. No two individuals with Down syndrome are alike just like the families they are a part of are all different. To place broad stereotypes — either saying it brings sadness or happiness to a family — would be to stereotype hundreds of thousands of families and downplay how they choose to live their unique lives.

2. Down syndrome brings with it delays and health concerns.

I feel like I share pretty realistically on my personal blog about our day-to-day with our daughter, Addison, but just in case you have missed those posts, let me say that Down syndrome is not always easy. Addison had very serious health concerns for her first year of life. She was in the NICU for five weeks (born full term), was on oxygen for nine months, was g-tube fed for five months, had two heart surgeries in six months and has been checked every few months for leukemia because she was born with a transient version of it. For the past three years, we’ve seen four therapists almost every week to help Addison advance to her next milestones. This has been a lot of work. It’s frustrating that she can’t talk to us. It stretches my patience to have to wait for her to do things/learn things because I want to do everything quickly, and she does everything at a much slower pace. I struggle with the fact that she is three but still isn’t as helpful/communicative/independent/able as a typical 3-year-old.

I don’t care how rose-colored your glasses are; Addison’s special needs have been very difficult to deal with at times with no promise of an easy future. Low muscle tone isn’t going away. Speech difficulties will just become more apparent as she merges further into life. Developmental delays don’t have a catch-up date.

To cover this with a pretty picture of constant happiness and cute puppy snuggles is simply not an accurate portrayal of Down syndrome.

deanne_child 3. Down syndrome does not take away from the fact that Addison is a little girl.

When she was a baby with her many health concerns, it was hard to see past her diagnosis. It was hard to imagine her living past lying in the NICU attached to a million wires, so puffy that you couldn’t make out her features. And yet as she has grown past all of that, she has shown us a hilariously fun personality of a little girl who is obsessed with chocolate, books, pretty things, dogs, Signing Time and her papa. She is fiercely independent and has blossomed from the sick-looking rosebud from her early days into a gloriously beautiful red rose.

4. Down syndrome has taught (is teaching) me many life lessons.

Compassion for those who are different from myself, patience, understanding, appreciation for different learning styles, loving not because it benefits me, but because in spite of this unexpected version of motherhood, love has bonded us. Enjoyment for little milestones becoming a big deal because of how hard everyone worked to get there, thankfulness for life, happiness in the face of difficulties, confidence in my family’s ability to overcome hardship, peace with today, contentment in the giving of myself to nurture another life.

5. Down syndrome does not define Addison, yet it is a big part of who she is.

Oftentimes parents might choose to describe their children with Down syndrome by the physical features that set them apart. “Adorable squinty eyes,” “kissable flat nose,” “love the feel of lifting the body with low muscle tone out of the crib in the morning.” By doing this, I don’t think they’re highlighting the differences and exalting them to make them seem cool. I think those physical characteristics are so closely intertwined to who that child is that after a while as a parent you don’t see a difference. Addison is Addison. Her physical characteristics include very distinct markers of Down syndrome, yet she could easily pass for a twin of her brother, Carter. I’ve stopped thinking of her features as different and just part of who she is. If I mention them specifically, it’s just my way of describing my beautiful daughter.

6. Individuals with Down syndrome are more alike than different. But they’re also going to have different struggles, different points of triumphs, different paths of achievement. Can both be true?

Over the past six months, Addison took a gymnastics class with her peers. Yes, she was more like those other children than different (a little girl wanting to have fun!), and yet she needed so much more help to learn proper behavior than any of those other children did. We had therapists meet us at class to figure out the best ways to help Addison do well. I wrote long blog posts of frustrations when it didn’t go well, happy posts when she achieved small goals. To put a “She’s more alike than different” Band-Aid over the experience would completely ignore the the extra assistance she needed to meet her other peers where they were at. I want the world to recognize that she is a beautiful 3-year-old enjoying life, but it’s also completely unfair to Addison to not acknowledge all of the extra work she has to put in to do this.

7. Down syndrome Addison brightens my life every day and makes me happier than I ever thought possible.

It’s easy to assign blame or give credit to the genetic makeup of a person, but the truth is, Down syndrome isn’t what brings joy to our home. Addison is. Down syndrome doesn’t work hard to succeed in feeding herself, dressing herself and preparing for preschool. Addison does. Down syndrome doesn’t smile so brightly I think my heart might explode with love. Addison does. Down syndrome doesn’t have a streak for trouble as she steals food from her brother, hides toys, tears her room apart and refuses to let me brush her teeth. Addison does.

Down syndrome doesn’t make choices for Addison. Down syndrome doesn’t pre-program a certain path for her. Down syndrome doesn’t determine that Addison will be a certain way. Yes, Addison has the genetic makeup of Down syndrome which brings with it some delays and struggles, but like any other girl she takes what she’s been given and lives according to how she wants to live. She makes choices. She chooses to laugh or cry. She decides whether to charm us or stubbornly stiff-arm us.

To give Down syndrome all the credit for what Addison has brought to our lives is completely overlooking everything she has brought to the table as an unique individual.

8. Down syndrome does not warrant a death sentence.

I’m not here to argue pro-choice or pro-life. I don’t think that is the issue here. The issue I’m addressing is when parents find out their unborn child has Down syndrome and they then choose to end the life because of the defect even though they badly want a baby.

Medical professionals will feed new parents a line. Society will feed new parents a line. Friends and family who only know normal will feed new parents a line. Preconceived notions from past glimpses of differences will feed new parents a line.

It’s easy to listen. It’s easy to think “they would be better off” to not live. In addition, you can read my reality of the health concerns, delays, frustrations,and uncertain future and feel justified. “See!” You can reason with yourself. “She’s been through it already and she said that it is hard!”

But the truth is that parenthood is hard. Life is hard. To admit things are difficult doesn’t mean I love my daughter any less. It just means I am honest about our journey because I respect you too much to lie to you. If you are in the experience someday yourself and discover the snuggly puppies bite, it helps to hear real stories of parents who have been there.

Sometimes the things that are the hardest for us to do — the most difficult circumstances to live through — the most frustrating lessons that never seem to end are the things that shape us into who we were meant to be. And those things bring with it true happiness and contentment that never would have come our way on the easy path. I’m not saying Addison’s life is the most difficult thing, I’m just saying there have been moments along the way (health concerns, etc.) that fit that description.

As the mother of a child with Down syndrome — as the mother of a child with Down syndrome who has had significantly more health issues than a typical child with Down syndrome — as the mother of a child with Down syndrome who didn’t want a child with Down syndrome — I still say with confidence: WORTH IT.

Just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve our efforts.

Addison is worth every bit of medical drama we had to go through to keep her alive her first year. Addison is worth every minute of the long hours of therapy appointments. Addison is worth our love even though it had a bumpy start (surprise diagnosis anyone?). Addison is worth fighting against social stigmas to help her live to her fullest potential. Addison is worth our time and effort into caring for her as a baby long past the time her age says she should be acting like a baby. Addison is worth life.

I believe Addison was perfectly created by a sovereign God. I believe he then placed her in our family. I believe he has an amazing future ahead for Addison. And I am beyond thankful for her. She is my daughter. She is not Down syndrome. She is a little girl who has Down syndrome, living life to the fullest every day.

9. Down syndrome does not mean “stupid.”

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the physical characteristics of Down syndrome includes a small mouth which then makes the tongue seem oversized. This then lends to difficulty with speech. First of all, it’s more difficult to learn to talk and then when conversation is possible, speech might be slurred or difficult to understand. Because communication is difficult in this way, oftentimes it’s hard for individuals with Down syndrome to express what they’re really thinking. This is often misinterpreted as not understanding or comprehending.

Addison struggles to talk. She signs mostly to us. Her spoken vocabulary is under 20 words at 3 years old. This makes it very difficult to know what she understands and such.

But what I have learned so far is that Addison is freaking smart. She manipulates situations when she wants something. She devises schemes to turn things her way. She problem solves like no one’s business. And she does this all with very little talking.

It might be easy for someone to make a rushed judgement when meeting Addison for the first time. But as someone who knows this little girl very well, I know better than to let her pull a fast one on me… again.

10.  If viewed realistically, Down syndrome should be overshadowed by a life.

Down syndrome. It’s just a label. It’s not a life sentence. It’s not a promise of happiness. It’s not a promise of a certain outcome. It is a life.

As Addison continues to grow and go through new phases of life, I know I will grow and change right along side her. I’m not saying I’m an expert. I’m not saying I’ve seen it all because I haven’t. I’m just getting started parenting a child with Down syndrome, and I still have so much to learn. I’m sure if you asked a different family in the Down syndrome world to make this same list perhaps it would look far different than mine because we’re all at different points in this journey where certain issues seem like a bigger deal to us than they would at other points.

But there’s one lesson I learned early on that I plan to hold onto tightly through all the mountains and valleys still ahead of us.  I love my daughter for exactly who she is. I go back and forth between wanting to be a part of the Down syndrome community and wanting to just focus on my family and our normal. I don’t claim to be a big Down syndrome blogger because I’m just a regular ol’ mommy blogger posting snarky pictures and the day’s happenings. But every once in a while I read something that someone else has written that reminds me that if I don’t share at least one version of this reality, people will stay in Ditch #1 because Ditch #2 seems like a lie special needs parents feed themselves to keep the world from feeling sorry for them.

Here’s to turning up the lights and seeing the whole picture. Here’s to celebrating differences, enjoying life and shaking off the glitter to take in the raw beauty of the truth underneath.

This post originally appeared Everything and Nothing From Essex.

 

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Why Taco Bell Threw This Boy With Down Syndrome a Seriously Awesome Party

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Everyone who knows Joe Redmond knows about his love for burritos.

The 11-year-old from York, Canada, has Down syndrome and, although his parents describe him as shy, he’s vocal about his favorite food, according to his father, Steve Redmond.

It all started last year when Joe’s education assistant, Louise Sartor, helped him prepare a speech for his school’s annual public speaking event. Joe decided to research the history of his favorite dish.

Joe with Louise Sarter
Joe with Louise Sartor.

He started eating them young and will never tire of it,” Steve Redmond, Joe’s father, told The York Region. “He’s in heaven when he’s got them.”

In the speech, Joe presents some facts about his favorite food (Did you know the name means “little donkey” in Spanish?) as well as some information on the various types of burritos in the world.

Check out the presentation below:

 

The speech was such a hit that Joe’s school and his family worked together to create a fundraiser called “Burritopalooza Day,” where Joe’s mother, Rosie Redmond, had some children from the school over and taught them how to make burritos.

Joe on "Burritopalooza" Day

Altogether the class raised $500 dollars and supporters raised an additional $1000. The money went to the Canadian Down Syndrome Society and the York Region Down Syndrome Association.

In June, Steve Redmond decided to post a video of Joe reciting the speech at home on his YouTube channel and then shared it on Taco Bell’s Facebook page. He was contacted by the fast food company and told they wanted to do something special for the burrito-loving young man.

On September 28th, Taco Bell Canada hosted a personal burrito party for Joe and 24 of his classmates at one of their restaurants in Richmond Hill, The York Region reported. In addition to the party, the fast food company also presented Joe with a check for $1,500, to match the $1,500 that he and classmates had raised for Canadian Down syndrome charity organizations.

Joe holding the check from Taco Bell

The media coverage of the event has helped to raise Down syndrome awareness in their area, and the family says it’s even helped Joe with his confidence.

“He’s still very shy but I think it really has done a lot to boost his self esteem, Steve Redmond told The Mighty in an email. “He’s even describing himself as being ‘famous.’

Joe with all his classmates and the check from Taco Bell

To think, all this began with just one little boy and his love for delicious Mexican food wrapped up in a tortilla. Way to go, Joe!

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This Woman With Down Syndrome Owns And Operates Her Own Business

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Anna Rudick’s greeting card business helps to give her independence, as well as a creative outlet.

The 26-year-old with Down syndrome from Minnetonka, Minnesota, started creating custom greeting card kits and selling them just over a month ago. So far, it’s been a huge success.

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Rudick met her mentor Karen Titus, from Richfield, Minnesota, a year ago through a day program for adults with developmental disabilities, according to Fox News.

Titus, who has been teaching card-making and scrapbooking for 17 years, decided to take Anna under her wing. As her business mentor, Titus helped Rudick to create a business of her own, and in the process the two became close friends.

See the two at work in the video below: 

“She has opened her house and given her time just for the joy of working with Anna,” Susan Rudick, Anna’s mother, told the Mighty via email. “Truly the joy of giving at its finest.”

Over the last month Anna’s Card Kits haave done very well. Anna has an assembly line system set up for creating the kits of Titus’s cards, so that she can quickly fill all the orders.

“Anna is a delight to work with,” Titus told The Mighty via email. “She is a hard worker and takes pride in what she is doing.”

Rudick, who has been doing arts and crafts projects since she was three, told The Mighty via email that her favorite part of the business is “meeting people, smiles and hugs.” She also said that the owl card is her favorite.

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Susan Rudick told The Mighty that her daughter is learning valuable lessons by running a business, including where to spend her hard-earned cash.

“Anna is learning that all the money she makes does not need to be spent on sodas,” Susan Rudick said. “She loves to give some of the money to the non-profits of her choice.”

When asked if she had any advice to offer other people interested in starting a card business, Rudick had some sound wisdom to give– “do what you like most.”

For more information about Anna’s Card Kits, visit this webpage or like her on Facebook

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