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.
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.