People With Down Syndrome Making a Difference

There was a time when people with Down syndrome lived out their lives in institutions away from their families and the general public. Fortunately, times are different now. Specialized care and advanced treatments mean that those born with Down syndrome lead full, active and happy lives. In fact, today people with Down syndrome  break down barriers and take on the world in surprising ways. Here are a few of their remarkable stories.

A Political First

Angela Bachiller lives in Valladolid, a city in central Spain. The now 32-year-old worked as an administrative assistant in the Social Welfare and Family offices for three years. She loves to travel and read. In 2013, Angela became the first person with Down syndrome to be elected to a city council. She hopes that her candidacy and election win will help change the perception people have about those with disabilities and open more doors of opportunity.

No Boundaries

In the spring of 2013, more than 2,100 students graduated from the Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) in Kentucky. Megan McCormick, one of the honor graduates, received an associate degree in education. Highly motivated and hard-working, Megan’s goal is to work with children as a teacher and mentor. Her accomplishments are impressive because Megan has Down syndrome. BCTC officials believe she is the first Down syndrome student to earn an associate degree with honors from a technical college.

Pablo Pineda, a successful actor in Spain, was the first Down syndrome student to earn a university degree in Europe. Pablo received the San Sebastian International Film Festival Silver Shell award for his film performance in “Yo Tambien,” where he played a university graduate with Down syndrome. He is the author of the book “The Challenge of Learning.” With a diploma in teaching and a bachelor’s in educational psychology, Pablo plans to retire from acting and teach.

In 2013, 15-year-old Elisha “Eli” Reimer became the first person  with Down syndrome to reach base camp on Mount Everest. Eli and his father trained together for a year to prepare for the two week 70-mile hike to the camp. The climb was not only a monumental accomplishment, but it also raised $85,000 in donations for the Elisha Foundation, a charitable organization created by Eli’s parents to help families with special needs children.

On the Screen

Actors with Down syndrome have starred in numerous television shows and films. One of the funniest is Lauren Potter who hilariously played Becky Jackson on “Glee.” Luke Zimmerman’s role as Tom Bowman in the series “The Secret Life of the American  Teenager’ led to other roles and a guest appearance on “Glee.”

Chris Burke’s endearing character on television’s “Life Goes On” led to parts in major motion pictures, including “Mona Lisa Smile.” Chris is a National Down Syndrome Society Goodwill Ambassador and travels the world to raise awareness.

Advances in medical treatment and a changing view of those with disabilities means that people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to take on any of the challenges the world has to offer.

Avoid the Nightmare: Become the Most Supportive Sports Parent You Can Be

As manager of his oldest daughter’s travel soccer team, Alex Perdikis has seen it all. He’s seen supportive parents who know how to keep losses in perspective and he’s seen the stuff of nightmares. If you’re a parent of a child who is active in sports, you know how easy it is to fall into the nightmare trap. Here are a few tips to make sure you don’t become the infamous “bad” sports parent.

Nightmares and Sports Don’t Mix

Former long-term coaches Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller conducted an informal survey of student athlete’s worst memories from their high school and youth sports days. The most common answer was “The ride home with my parents.” Most of these parents were not the typical screamers or second-guessers. Most of them thought they were making constructive comments and suggestions. The problem is, according to Brown that right after the game or competition is exactly the wrong time to talk about improving technique. Children need that time to regroup and distance themselves. It’s also likely that the coach already gave instructional feedback. The ride home from a sporting event should not become a child’s worst memory.

Make It Fun

Sports activities have so many positive benefits. Sports is a great way to learn problem-solving skills, learn to work well with others and develop a spirit of sportsmanship. Many of these positives are obliterated if parents lose focus. Young athletes get more out of their sporting activities if they think of them as fun. They don’t need the pressure that comes from overemphasis on winning. They take their cue from you. If you treat the child differently after a win than a loss, it sends a clear message that winning is more  important than doing their best.

Children also follow your example when it comes to the coaching staff. If you criticize coaching decisions, either at the game or at home, the child loses respect for the coach. Children should also see their parents root for the entire team, not just them individually.

It’s very easy for parents to self-identify through their children. Perhaps you had a promising athletic career that was stalled because of injury and you’d like nothing better than to see your child succeed where you fell short. Of course, you want what is best for your child’s future. The problem is that your goals may not be the same as your child’s. Don’t lose sight of your child’s individual wants and talents or assume they are the same as yours.

Be a Parent

Being a parent means supporting and teaching through example. Student athletes have coaches to teach them their game, but parents play a different role. Remaining confident and upbeat during games, avoiding criticism, displaying true sportsmanship, respecting authority and treating others, even those on opposing sides, with kindness is necessary if you want to become an ideal sports parent. Words aren’t enough. You have to be a shining example of acceptable behavior and decorum to teach your child the true life lessons that sports activities provide.