This Photo Series Is Shattering Misconceptions About Down Syndrome
My eyes tear up as I look at the photos. There’s my little guy, in a cute little sweater-vest no less, looking quite grown up and fabulous, if I do say so myself. He’s only 3, but his arrival into the world brought so many changes into mine.
Seamus was diagnosed with Down syndrome prenatally, and although my husband and I greeted this news with trepidation at first, now we can’t imagine our little boy any differently, and we wouldn’t change a thing about him.
Many people don’t know much about Down syndrome. This was definitely true for us before Seamus. In fact, if you do want to try to learn about it, what you find online is often less than encouraging. I chose to start at national organizations because I knew they had a vested interest in putting out accurate information. From there, we were lucky because just after he was born, we found and joined a Down syndrome support group in our area. Here were people who “got it” — who understood him, our feelings, and the new journey we were on as a family.
As part of a fundraising and awareness campaign, the Waterloo Regional Down Syndrome Society puts out an annual calendar. The goal is to help others see people with Down syndrome more clearly. For the past five years, the project has changed from pictures simply being used in a calendar to a series of photos that have gained power and impact that extends far beyond the reach of a simple calendar.
A beloved local photographer donates her time and talents because her friend’s little guy with Down syndrome changed her and opened her eyes in a way she could never have foreseen. Hilary Gauld Camilleri takes photos of these lovely humans because it’s a personal journey of storytelling. Over the years of participating in these projects, we’ve become friends and I feel lucky to know someone who is able to capture the amazing little boy I know and love and show his true essence to others. The people connected to this community feel as much like family as any I was born into.
For the month of October, one or two photos are put out every day, showcasing a different person with Down syndrome. The project is entitled “More to Me” and the photos are not the cautionary tales of antiquated textbooks or misguided websites. They show real people leading real and meaningful lives. They are valued members of their families and communities, and their images are helping to shatter misconceptions about disability.
Many families we’ve met who have children with Down syndrome tell a similar story. Life is different and at times difficult, but their child has changed them for the better. If you look at these pictures and really try to see the person and the ability (not the lack thereof) you’ll hopefully understand a little better. These kids are the blessings we didn’t know we wanted, and we’re thrilled to show them off to the world!
Photos by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.