This Artist With Down Syndrome Was Institutionalized for 35 Years. Now, Her Work Is World-Renowned.

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This artist is a reminder of the incredible contributions to society that we miss out on when we marginalize people with special needs.

Judith Scott was born with Down syndrome in 1944, The New York Times reported. By the age of 7 she was classified as “profoundly retarded” and placed in an institution where she would spend the next 35 years of her life. She couldn’t communicate verbally and it wasn’t discovered that she was deaf until she was in her 30s.

This could have easily been all the world would know about Scott if her twin sister, Joyce Scott, had not become her legal guardian and brought her to live in San Francisco, according to a press release from the Brooklyn Museum. There, in 1987, at an art workshop in Oakland called Creative Growth Art Center, Judith Scott’s talents emerged.

Judith Scott working at Creative Growth Art Center
Judith Scott working at Creative Growth Art Center

For 18 years, until her death at the age of 61 in 2005, Scott worked on her art with a focused determination. She would tie, weave and bind fabrics and fibers over objects until she’d completely enveloped them, sometimes spending weeks and months on a single project.

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Scott worked with all kinds of objects, everything from a bundle of twigs to a shopping cart. Her work has earned her international acclaim and her exhibit Judith Scott– Bound and Unbound was displayed at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art in the Brooklyn Museum.

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Although her materials were pretty much determined by what was in stock at Creative Growth at any given time,” Holland Cotter, an art critic, said in the New York Times,  “what she did with what she had was her decision alone, and the decisions were genius.”

 See more of the pieces on display at the Judith Scott– Bound and Unbound exhibition below: 

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How to Know When It's OK to Use the 'R' Word, in One Simple Chart

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graphic saying 'it's not' in response to the question of when it's ok to use the 'r' word

OK, that’s not a chart, but c’mon, people. Just don’t.

 

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The Most Important Thing I Did After My Son Was Diagnosed With Down Syndrome

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Dear Sharon,

I know you feel like someone has turned off the lights and left you in a dark room without a door. You went into labor expecting that your growing family would look like all of the other families you know. Now, you’ve found out that your son has Down syndrome, and you feel completely alone. Your family and friends don’t know what to say, and you have no idea how to navigate this new terrain on your own. The isolation you feel is almost crushing.

For this reason, as quickly as possible and with great urgency, you must search for someone who will travel alongside you on this new road, with an empathy that comes from having been where you find yourself now. This is the person you are looking for:

Someone who isn’t too far up ahead on this road — there’s no need to hear about the challenges that may arise in the future. Find the person who is only a footstep or two out in front or a person who finds herself in the same place as you. You will restore each other’s strength as you walk side by side.

Someone who can be physically present at times — you need to be able to look in their eyes and see how your feelings resonate in their soul. And you’ll want to hear them laugh, which will reassure you that laughter is still part of the journey.

Someone you like so much that you’re grateful for whatever reason brought you together — you wouldn’t want to have missed knowing them in this life. If it took the diagnosis to bring you together, then the diagnosis has brought you a blessing. (The first of many, although you don’t realize this yet.)

I can’t promise you that everything up ahead will be OK; I really don’t know for sure. But I can promise you that you’ll make it through whatever lies ahead if you find this friend to travel with.

Oh, and as soon as you’ve walked together a bit and your strength has been renewed, be this friend for someone else who is just starting out on the path. Make yourself available, shower them with the understanding and compassion that springs from your shared experience, and watch how they move from despair to hope because you’re by their side. There you will find meaning in the diagnosis, and then you will embrace it with an appreciation for its unexpected blessings.

I know you’re going to learn to love the journey.

— Sharon

Traveling Friends

The Mighty is asking its readers this question: If you could go back to the day you (or a loved one) got a diagnosis, what would you tell yourself? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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Meet the Superstars: a Special Dance Troop That Knows How to Have Fun

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Every Monday a group of parents and their children with special needs meet for an hour at the Princeton Recreation Center in Mercer County, West Virginia. They practice dance and baton twirling to classic songs and they call themselves the Superstars, according to WVVA News.

It gives them an opportunity to get out there and shine and show everybody that they can do anything anyone else can do,” Crystal Farmer, the event coordinator, told the outlet. “It lets them shine for a change.”

The group has helped the children work on their flexibility, as well as gain confidence. They’ve even made public appearances at community events and parades.

Check them out in the video below:

 

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Why This Is So Much More Than a Simple Target Advertisement

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Izzy Bradley is suddenly getting a lot of attention.

The 2-year-old from Stillwater, Minnesota, was featured in a Target holiday advertisement that came out on Sunday, according to CBS News. Izzy, who has Down syndrome, was selected to appear in the ad after Target reached out to the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network, an organization that Izzy’s mom, Heather Bradley, works closely with.

The ad of the adorable child playing with an activity cube is one small step towards greater inclusivity in advertising everywhere.

I really appreciate Target’s policy of including [children with disabilities] in their ads,” Bradley told the outlet. “I think it really normalizes Down syndrome and helps people to see we’re really just like any other family,”

Watch the video below for the full story:

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To the Woman Who Asked to Take a Closer Look at My Daughter With Down Syndrome

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When my perfect 5-pound daughter was born almost five years ago, we were given a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Fear of the unknown consumed our lives. Constant worry filled our days and nights. What will her future be like? What will our future be like? I became the overprotective mama bear and mistook kind smiles from strangers as glances of pity. Scared and in love with this little baby, I felt so lost.

Kids sitting on parents' shoulders

When Ava was about 1 month old, we took a mommy/baby trip to the grocery store. In the canned goods aisle, my life forever changed. A stranger was pushing her cart by us, looking over her shoulder at my little baby in the carrier. She came back around and asked if she could take a closer look. When she saw Ava’s sleeping face, a warm, bright smile spread across her own.

“Thank you,” she said. “This brings back so many wonderful memories.” Just then, a teenage girl came up and gave her mom a hug. She too had Down syndrome. This kind stranger hugged her daughter back and placed her hand on my shoulder. “You have been tremendously blessed; everything will be OK, you’ll see.”

I stood there with tears in my eyes and gave her a shaky, “Thank you.” I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. We would be OK. She would be OK. This woman gave me strength to start to raise my daughter to do and be anything she wants.

Today Ava is a spirited preschooler with so much love to give. That kind stranger in the grocery store will never know the gift she gave that day. She gave me the ability to push aside fear and start living our lives for our little girl. She was right… our lives have been tremendously blessed.

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