photo of twins with down syndrome

Photographer Captures Precious Images of Identical Twins With Down Syndrome

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Photographer Laura Duggleby, based in Topeka, Kansas, recently had the opportunity to do a portrait shoot for a woman named Nicole, who has identical twin girls with Down syndrome, Blakeley and Brynnlee. The odds of identical twins being born with Down syndrome is approximately one or two in a million.

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Nicole told Duggleby that she “cried and cried and consulted family for support” after both her unborn children were diagnosed. But she now believes the challenges of raising twins with Down syndrome have made her a better person, and she “wouldn’t change it for the world.

Photo of two baby twins with Down syndrome, laying on a soft pink blanket.

Black and white photo of the twins with Down syndrome laying on a blanket.

The twins with Down syndrome suck on binkies.

A baby with Down syndrome lays on a blanket.

Nicole also opened up about some of her fears. She told Duggleby she’s worried about them being teased and about the possibility that they may not be able to live on their own. She’s thankful for an amazing support network of family, friends and the Down Syndrome Guild of Kansas City.

“I feel so honored to have met Nicole and get a glimpse of this beautiful, yet hard journey she is on,” Duggleby wrote on her website. “I love her tenacious spirit to fight for her girls with all her might and love them fiercely as they deserve.”

A baby with Down syndrome laying on her back on a pink blanket.

A close up of the twin's feet.

“I feel as if so much of the bad gets out in the media, and yet there is not enough shown on the love that is being spread and the sacrifices people are making on the daily,” Duggleby told The Mighty in an email. “I truly long for people to feel valued, loved and appreciated for what they are doing! ”

Twins with Down syndrome.

A baby with Down syndrome laying on her back.

All images courtesy of Laura Duggleby

For more photos, visit Laura Duggleby on the web and Facebook.


Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

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In Emotional Video, Parents Share the Joys and Fears of a Down Syndrome Diagnosis

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Downside Up Inc. is a nonprofit based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, helping bring together families who have loved ones with Down syndrome. The organization teamed up with a few families in the community to produce a video for parents who have just received a Down syndrome diagnosis, and as expected, there are both tears and smiles.

The aim of the video is to congratulate new parents and “bring hope to them for the future of their child at a moment where their joy of having a brand new beautiful baby is overshadowed by the fear of a diagnosis.”

“It’s OK to be scared and feel frustration and fear and sadness and a lot of things that you don’t expect to feel when you first have a baby,” one mother says in the clip, when asked if she could talk to her past self. “Because your journey has changed, and change is hard, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be totally amazing.”


Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

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Madeline Stuart Model With Down Syndrome Takes a Stand to End Bullying

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Madeline Stuart, the world-famous professional model with Down syndrome, is paying it forward.

After walking the runway at New York Fashion Week last month, Stuart, 19, returned home to Australia and attended a pair of events for I Can I Will Australia, a nonprofit aimed at ending bullying. I Can I Will has a mentoring program that pairs young adults with children with special needs, or youths who are “struggling socially,” and Stuart serves as an ambassador for the organization.

Stuart speaks at events and does photo shoots with the organization. On Friday, Feb. 26 Stuart attended the Be Fabulous Ladies Luncheon at the Moo Moo The Wine Bar + Grill in Brisbane, and modeled designs by Miss Henry Boutique at the gathering. I Can I Will partnered with the restaurant in a bid to raise $100,000 over the course of the year, which they hope will put 2,000-4,000 Gold Coast children into their program, according to its Facebook page.

Madeline Stuart at I Can I Will fundraiser event
Image courtesy of Madeline Stuart
Madeline Stuart at I Can I Will Australia charity event
Image courtesy of Madeline Stuart

Stuart later attended the Philanthropists Luncheon at Jellyfish restaurant for anotherI Can I Will fundraiser, and she was happy to pose for a number of photos with fellow guests at the event.

Rosanne Stuart told The Mighty her daughter is embracing her position as a role model, and happy to use her fame to raise awareness for ending bullying. “Maddy just likes to show people that if they believe in themselves they are capable of anything,” Stuart told The Mighty. “To never give up or doubt yourself.”

Madeline Stuart at I Can I Will Australia charity event
Image courtesy of Madeline Stuart
Madeline Stuart at I Can I Will Australia charity event
Image courtesy of Madeline Stuart

“Maddy has always wanted to help everyone and share everything she had with her friends,” Stuart added. “Now she just feels the love from everyone, and she feels so very special.”

 

Madeline Stuart at I Can I Will Australia charity event
Image courtesy of Madeline Stuart

In addition to her modeling career and philanthropy work, Stuart is also an ambassador for the InsideOutside Dance Ensemble, a dance group for people with disabilities.

For more updates on Stuart, be sure to visit her Facebook page and website.


Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

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12 Powerful Things People Said to New Parents of Babies With Down Syndrome

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When parents are first told their baby has Down syndrome, the words that come after — whether they’re from a medical professional or loved one — are so important. Recently, we asked members of our Facebook communities the following question: “What’s one thing someone said that really resonated with you after your child was diagnosed with Down syndrome?” These are just some of the powerful responses:

1. “After getting our prenatal diagnosis, I was having a hard time coming to grips with our new reality. A friend told me, ‘She’s still the same baby you’ve loved for the last 20 weeks.’ — Brenda Hickson

2. “Congratulations! He is beautiful!” – Alecia Talbott

Congratulations! He is beautiful!

3. “Our pediatrician recommended getting the blood test a few days after he was born, raising some concerns. He said, ‘You have a beautiful son; whether he has it or not isn’t going to change the way you love him.’” — Elisabeth Withrow

4. “My doctor told us she suspected our daughter had Down syndrome shortly after her birth. Then she said something like, ‘Regardless of the test results, she is a blessing who will be very much loved by her parents and siblings.’” — Jodi Dielschneider Parsons

5. “It is not what was said, but what my sister-in-law did. When my son was born with Down syndrome, I was 22 years old and devastated. It was a scary, uncertain time, and my sister-in-law came to visit us. She picked him up, cradled him and sang to him. She told him what a precious and beautiful baby he was, and it was then I felt everything would be OK. No one else took the time to acknowledge him in that way. Twenty-six years later, I could not be more proud of our son. He is a beautiful person! — Tara Parham

6. “She is so beautiful.” — Trisha Glover

7. “After our son was born, my husband came back up to the hospital with a stack of books about Down syndrome and said, ‘We’ve got this! We’ll just learn everything we can and love him.’ And that’s exactly what we did. His response set the tone for our whole family.” — Alethea Jo Mshar

"We've got this! We'll just learn everything we can and love him."

8. “A coworker said, ‘I’m so happy for you!’” — Jennifer Weimer

9.‘Sophia is coming home, Sophia is coming home.’ This was a quote from my son, Sophia’s big brother. He was 2 and just filled with so much excitement and pure joy to hear his sister was coming home from the hospital. [It] brings me so much joy to see how much they love each other and are protective of one another.” — Lynn Amato

10. “Enjoy him being a baby first. Yes, the therapies and appointments are time-consuming and important, but so is nurturing those precious moments that go by so fast.” — Tina Corley

11. “Stop worrying about the future and love him now. He’s a baby like any other.” — Bernadette Maughan

12. Love her… that’s all you have to remember. Love her. — Jamie Stephany

"Love her... that's all you have to remember. Love her."

*Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.


Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

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One Single Piece of Advice I’d Offer All New Parents of Children With Down Syndrome

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Welcome! You are now officially members of the club we like to call, “The Lucky Few.” Membership perks include: extended snuggles, celebrating every single milestone, beautiful almond-shaped eyes that will take your breath away when you least expect it and the knowing smiles from strangers on the street that act as our secret handshake — they’re part of the club, too, and just want you to remember you’re never alone.

Baby girl smiling

If I can give you one single piece of advice, it would be to make this your mantra: “Everything is possible.” I know the phrase is usually “anything is possible,” but when speaking about our life with our daughter, Lily, I never liked the way it implied there may be some things that weren’t possible. Lily is living proof that everything is.

Here is where I have to let you in on a tiny secret: Lily is adopted. My wife, Jessica, and I knew we always wanted to build our family through adoption, and we have a background of working with people with special needs. When you choose adoption, there is a list of questions a social worker goes through. For us, the question, “Would you accept a child with Down syndrome?” was the easy one because it was a world we already knew and less intimidating than the complete unknown.

This is where I commend you. Joining this club is so different for every single person, and maybe this is your scary unknown, but you’re here, and if you’re here, then you’ve taken the first steps to face the scary and embrace the adventure. 

Perhaps you’re having trouble imagining what life is going to look like in two weeks or even five years down the road, but the fact that you’re trying to picture it is a great start. Try to remember not to compare — that no two children are the same, and that includes two children with Down syndrome.

Girl on the sand near the ocean shore

Lily, like so many other children with Down syndrome, also has a congenital heart defect which, at 7 months old, led to a cardiac arrest and a brain injury that caused her developmental to restart. At 5 years old, she’s just beginning to walk with the help of a walker or some guiding hands and is working on how to communicate with us through more than just giggles or tears. For two people who thought we knew all about the road we had chosen, we suddenly found ourselves facing the complete unknown.

Girl using her walker outside

There are days the road has seemed long and impossible; days when we’ve sat her down beside her peers and almost cried seeing how far apart they were in their skill levels.  It’s so easy to watch two children playing side by side and get overwhelmed at the differences. Those are the times we’ve needed to remind ourselves of our mantra — that everything is possible. In our house, we call it “Lily Time,” and we use it to remind ourselves that Lily will do everything as long as we allow her to do it in “Lily Time.”

Girl sitting on the steps

I’m not saying to ignore the voices of the therapists and doctors who are helping you along the way. I’m just suggesting that sometimes you need to throw away the charts and the calendars and just watch. Take the time to look backwards and see how far you’ve all come since the day you first joined this club, and choose to celebrate that instead of trying to figure out what comes next.

For the number of days we’ve felt frustrated, there have been hundreds more filled with giggles and hugs; days filled with an absolute pure joy at being part of a club that truly allows you to witness that everything is possible.

Follow this journey on Giggles and Hugs.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. 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. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

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The Statistic I Didn’t Know When My Son With Down Syndrome Was Born

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“We believe your baby has Down syndrome.”

You’ve just birthed a baby, a beautiful pink crying baby. And within moments, these are the words filling your brain. The thrill, the adrenaline of birth, the new, fresh excitement is weighed down, heavy, in the pit of your stomach, by that greedy monster of fear. The unknown. It feeds on fear like no other.

Then the statistics. Those cold, hard statistics handed to you in a perfect crisp folder that immediately begins to wrinkle under the sweat of your hands. Oh, and the faces surrounding you as you lay in your hospital bed. Everyone, the doctors, the nurses, family and friends, look down on you full of concern, sadness and the worst, pity.

Some well-meaning friends offer a half smile and “but he will always be happy.”

Your mind swirls with all of the new doctors you and your baby will soon be visiting: geneticists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, ENTs and ophthalmologists. How fast your mind can go from feeling bright, wide and expansive, to shrinking within the sterile confines of four white walls of a hospital room.

Where are the colorful bouncing balloons strung up with pretty ribbons? The flowers? The smiles, the laughter, the blue cigars?

Fast forward nine years later, we are at your son Wil’s birthday celebration. It’s in a bowling alley/arcade. He has just bowled a game with 11 of his friends from school, many of them girls; the girls just love him. Wil and his friends will soon enter the arcade, where Wil will swipe his game card and play all the same games as his friends. But now they are all about to dig into their chocolate cupcakes. Wil is poised over his cupcake, sucking in a deep breath, ready to blow out the bright flame of the number nine candle stuck in its center. His friends sit lined down the table, hands raised and waving in cheer.

Even outside the borders of this birthday picture, the story continues to unfold. There stand the mothers of some of these children who have helped pass out pizza and now the cupcakes. They are refilling cups of fruit punch and Sprite. Most importantly, they are raising children who love and support Wil.

According to Wil’s friend, Seeger, who is sitting at that birthday table, Wil spends 5 percent of his life giving hugs. He’s also quite good with his manners. Seeger wrote Wil a personal friendship note thanking him for “being a good friend and saying please and I hope your day is fun and awesome.”

Yes, those statistics in that heavy folder that was handed to me on Wil’s day of birth are very real and very important. But, what I didn’t know nine years ago that I do now is there is always a bigger story outside of the folder, outside of the four hospital walls and outside the border of every picture. No one snapshot can ever tell the whole story.

In March, Wil and I will sit on a panel in front of medical students at Wayne State University. They will want to know my personal story in how to present facts about Down syndrome to brand new parents. I will share with them what I believe is one of my son’s most important life statistics: that Wil spends 5 percent of his life giving hugs. Isn’t that just awesome?

9-year-old boy having a birthday party -- he and his friends are sitting at a table, eating pizza and cheering as he starts to blow out the candle on his cupcake

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? 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. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

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