Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness

Blog #219~ The Faces of Down Syndrome

Blog #219~The Faces of Down Syndrome

The faces of Down syndrome are more prominent in 2018, than they were 24 years ago when my son, Nick was born.  Acceptance and inclusion are two things we advocate everyday, and especially in the month of October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Down syndrome awareness month

This week I want to highlight some of the faces of individuals with Down syndrome who are making a difference, by advocating acceptance and inclusion.  There are more models with Down syndrome in the media, thanks to companies like Target and all the way up to New York fashion week.  In addition, television shows are featuring actors with Down syndrome.  Trailblazers are advocating for job opportunities and making a difference.  Here are some of the faces of individuals who have Down syndrome, and advocates who are paving the way.

btway

*A&E’s Emmy winning series Born this Way 🙂

“Winner of the 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, Born This Way follows a group of seven young adults born with Down syndrome as they pursue their passions and lifelong dreams, explore friendships, romantic relationships and work, all while defying society’s expectations.  In their willingness and courage to openly share their lives, through a lens that is not often shown on television, we learn they have high hopes just like anyone else. The series also gives voice to the parents, allowing them to talk about the joy their son or daughter brings to their family, and the challenges they face in helping them live as independently as possible”.

Read my exclusive interview with Sandra Assismotos McElwee (author of Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion & Exclusion) and mother of cast mate Sean McElwee here: https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=born+this+way

*CNN’s Hero of the Year Amy Wright of Bitty and Beau’s Coffee 🙂

bitty and beau coffee shop

CNN Heroes is a television special created by CNN to honor individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a difference in their communities. Amy Wright started a grass-roots movement, opening up Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, which is located in Wilmington, NC. National statistics have shown that 70% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed. Her mission is to provide purposeful jobs that bring the community together, and helps people with and without disabilities to spend time together.

Read my blog about Bitty and Beau’s Coffee: https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=bitty+and+bo

*Firestarter Advocating for Inclusion on Capitol Hill David Egan 🙂

Firestarters

One of the featured individuals in the book Firestarters is David Egan.  David is the first person with an intellectual disability to be awarded a Joseph P. Kennedy JR. Public Policy Fellowship, he made history by working on Capitol Hill with the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee. David Egan, born with Down syndrome, is a trailblazer for others who have intellectual disabilities.

David-Egan-Capitol-Hill-2011

Read more about this Firestarter David Egan and co-author Paul Eder in my exclusive interview at this link: https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=firestarter

*We are seeing more actors and models with Down syndrome in prominent roles! 🙂

Chris Burke was a trailblazer starring in the TV series, Life Goes On:

Chris Burke 2

Lauren Potter star of Fox’s hit show Glee:

potter27.jpg

Jamie Brewer stars in American Horror Story:

American Horror Story jamie Brewer

Madeline Stuart and Maria Avila are changing the face of beauty and diversity in the world of fashion, both have walked at NY Fashion Week!

madeline stuart    maria avila

*2018 Gerber Spokes Baby Lucas Warren 🙂 

Gerber baby 2018

Read more about 2018 Gerber Baby, Lucas in my blog: https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=gerber+baby

It’s wonderful to see more of these beautiful faces in the media.  How amazing to read about advocates who are opening up doors for employment and being applauded for their efforts!  Individuals with Down syndrome have goals and dreams, and want the same things as everyone else.  They need opportunities and to be included without barriers.  Let’s move beyond awareness about Down syndrome, towards acceptance and inclusion!

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow my son, Nick where you will find more stories and faces of DS:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs

Blog #156~Is Inclusion For Your Child?

Blog #156~Is Inclusion For Your Child?

Are you raising or involved with educating a child with special needs within an inclusion setting?  Perhaps you are considering  an inclusion classroom for your child.  If so, then THIS is the book you need to read:

whos-the-slow-learner

Who’s The Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion & Exclusion, written by Sandra Assimotos McElwee (Outskirts Press) is a great book and and resource on inclusion.   Her son Sean McElwee was born with Down syndrome.  Sean is now 22 years old and is one of the star cast members of the Emmy Award Winning series, Born This Way on A&E.  

Her goal for writing this book was to educate and inspire, while chronicling her son’s education experiences.  In Sandra’s words, “This is not a ‘How-to’ book, but a ‘How we did it’ book.”

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is a term which expresses commitment to educate each child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the school and classroom he or she would otherwise attend.  It involves brining the support services to the child (rather than moving the child to the services) and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than having to keep up with the other students).  Proponents of inclusion generally favor newer forms of education service delivery.

Full Inclusion means that all students, regardless of handicapping condition of severity, will be in a regular classroom/program full time.  All services must be taken to the child in that setting.  

(From Sandra’s book this information was taken from the Wisconsin Educational Council’s Website)

Inclusion not only benefits the special education student, but also the regular education students in class.  It can be highly successful with the right supports, accommodations, modifications and supportive school staff.  From my own experience, I found this to be the case with my son Nick, who is also 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.

Sandra offers a wealth of information in this book.  Each chapter begins with all Sean’s IEP goals for that school year.  The book is loaded with great ideas on how to navigate the school system and how/when to reach out for outside help using consultants to advocate for your child.  This was the case when Sean transitioned into intermediate school, where they determined a need to put a behavior support plan in the IEP.  Sandra provides this full behavior support plan in the book as well, which is very beneficial.  Getting outside support for communication and behavior also helped greatly during the adolescent years with my son, Nick. Keeping in the loop with staff and volunteering in the school and classroom is another great way to keep up with how your child is doing in school.

There are so many valuable lessons that Sandra learned and shares about her son’s educational journey.  Many of which I can relate to having gone through this with my son, Nick.  You are not always going to have a school team or some of the members supporting inclusion for your child.  Sometimes it’s the school staff that are the slow learners.  In this book, you can see how Sandra had to advocate even harder during the intermediate and high school years. Unfortunately this was not always a success. But these actions set the foundation, to make it easier for other families to follow.

The book not only contains a wealth of education information, but many funny and inspiring stories on how Sean touched so many lives.  In one story, Sandra gets out of the shower and noticed the unmistakable odor of popcorn being microwaved.  She fully expected to smell a burnt popcorn next, so she hustled quickly downstairs.  To her surprise, Sean had just opened a perfectly cooked bag of popcorn.  She asked Sean what number he pushed?  Sean looked at her like she was crazy, and pointed to the control panel and said “popcorn”.  It turned out that the all the site words Sean had been learning in first grade were working. Sandra didn’t even know there was a popcorn button on the panel.  In this case she, was the slow learner.

Who’s The Slow Learner? is not just for parents, but a great resource for educators, future regular & special education teachers, school administrators and advocates.  This is the first book that chronicles a student with special education needs from pre-school to high school graduation.  It’s a very instructive book that shows a mother’s determination to advocate for the best available resources in not always a cooperative educational system.

I’m sure this book will benefit many considering inclusion for their child with special needs, and the education team that will be providing for them. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

Catch Sean and his family on the Emmy Winning Series, A&E’s Born This Way, Tuesday nights at 9pm (8pm Central)!

Trump_Key_Art_Premiere_FIN.indd

Follow Nick:

scan0016

Facebook and Pinterest: @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram: #nickdsautism

Twitter: @tjunnerstall

 

Posted in Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #150~A&E’s Born This Way, an Exclusive Interview

Blog #150~A&E’s Born This Way, an Exclusive Interview

A&E’s Emmy nominated series, Born This Way premieres its second season next Tuesday, 7/26/16 at 10pm/9pm (Central).  Born This Way features a cast of seven young adults with Down syndrome.  The show follows each cast member pursuing their real lives with passions, wants and needs the same as any other person their age. It will warm your heart, make you laugh and smile. They shine a wonderful light showing how awesome their lives are. And they’ve got serious swag…..

A&E’s Born This Way premieres, Tuesday July 26th at 10pm/ 9pm (Central)

Trump_Key_Art_Premiere_FIN.indd

Recently, I was approached by the marketing department to partnership with A&E to help bring awareness and promote this show.  My son, Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome as well as autism.  So, I was happy to jump at the chance to do so.  Today’s blog post is an exclusive interview with the mother of Sean, a featured cast member on the show.

Sean McElwee is 22 years old.  He’s a dashing young man, an excellent golfer and gifted athlete. Sean thrived in inclusion in primary school and survived exclusion in secondary school.  He attends community college and works at Home Depot. He is a self-professed ladies man, and has dance moves that own the floor.

Sean with his parents Rick and Sandra……

Sean family pic

Let’s get to the interview with Sean’s Mom, Sandra Assimotos McElwee ….

Sandra Assimotos McElwee is an advocate for unborn babies with Down syndrome and created one of the first websites for parents with a prenatal diagnosis. She’s the author of three books,Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion”. McElwee contributed to the books, Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Our Lives“,  and “You Will Dream New Dreams, Inspiring Personal Stories by Parents of Children with Disabilities.” Married over twenty-two years to Sean’s father, Rick, they enjoy traveling and participating in Sean’s sports activities.  A medical sales professional, McElwee’s most important job is being Sean’s mother.

Interview with Sandra McElwee, Sean’s mom:

1.     What advice do you have for parents with younger children and newborns that have Down syndrome?

—Enjoy your baby, don’t get caught up in the ‘what could be’ although I know it’s hard to not think about a future wedding when you have a baby. The dreams you may have, the dreams that you had that may have been dashed by the diagnosis –they will become new dreams and in my case dreams I could never have imagined in my wildest imagination! 

2.  During the age that Sean was in the public school system, what was the most difficult part of the IEP process for you?  Where you happy with the end result of schooling and his IEP.

—I’ve written a book about this—‘Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion.’

Who's The Slow Learner

Sean was an inclusion pioneer, the first student included with a disability in his elementary school. His inclusion was such a success by the 4th grade the school became an inclusive school and there were no segregated classes and around 40 students with a variety of special needs fully included. The wheels fell off in secondary school. So no, I was not happy with the end result, but the first 7 years were text-book perfect.

The most difficult part of the IEP process was in high school when educators and administrators outright lied to me.  

3.  What advice would you give for new teachers and special education teachers who will be working with students that have Down syndrome?

–Please give your students opportunities. Allow them to express their interests and support them in pursuing their interests. Don’t assume just because someone can’t speak clearly that they don’t have something to say—listen to them. And do not expect a person with Down syndrome to have BETTER BEHAVIOR than the typical students.  

4.  What has been your biggest joy and accomplishment raising Sean?  What has been the toughest time and struggle?

–Seeing Sean grow into a confident, independent adult. The toughest struggles have been dealing with the prejudices of educators who limited his opportunities when he was in high school. 

5.  What would you like to share with the world about Sean, Down syndrome and being on Born This Way?

—I want the world to see that Sean and people with DS are more alike than different, they simply needs support and opportunities to show the world their capabilities. 

6.  As a mom of my son Nick, who is 22 years old and has Down syndrome; what are your biggest fears for your son now that he is an adult? 

—My biggest fears are that he will get his heart broken to the point of not wanting to try again…although he really has a lot of tenacity so like most fears, mine is probably unfounded.

I hope that Born This Way and this interview will enlighten and inspire parents, family, friends and educators who have been lucky enough to be touched by a child who has Down syndrome.  Be sure to set your DVR’s for A&E’s Born This Way.  Please share this blog and the additional social media links below.  That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

scan0016

Facebook @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

instagram-logo#nickdsautism

pintrest@Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

twitter logo@tjunnerstall