"I believe people with Down syndrome can do anything—really, really anything!"
When I was born over 30 years ago, the doctors didn’t expect much of me. The moment they held me up to my mom after I was delivered, she knew something was different. That’s when I was diagnosed with Down syndrome—and all the “she’ll never be able to do…” advice came after.
But the doctor’s words didn’t stop me! Because while the doctors saw a diagnosis, my parents just saw their little girl who they were going to raise just like my older brother, Justin.
Acting on the suggestion of a social worker at the hospital, my parents contacted the Association for Children with Down Syndrome, now known as ACDS, which specializes in the education of children with disabilities like mine. Six weeks later, Mom and I arrived to participate in the first “Infant Class” at ACDS. We thrived. I was even the first baby in my class to learn to walk, at just nine months old!
Walking came quickly, but talking was harder for me, so I learned American Sign Language. My favorite signs were “cookie” and “eat.” Mom and I started traveling to local elementary schools as Ambassadors for ACDS, where I got to show-off and teach others what a child with Down syndrome was capable of.
I started kindergarten in 1993, where four other children and I piloted the first inclusion class in the South Huntington School District. Today, integrated classes are an educational right but, for our district, we were the first! I loved being in classes with my typical peers. I stayed with them until seventh grade, when the academic demands became too challenging. I started taking smaller classes where I fine-tuned my skills.