The National Down Syndrome Society seeks to fight the common misconceptions and limitations placed on people with Downs.
Now, in honor of their 40th anniversary, NDSS has created a powerful new video that shows everyday people with Downs syndrome who’ve done extraordinary things with their lives. The video features a faux doctor whose old-fashioned view of the chromosomal disorder unfortunately sounds all-too familiar to those who love someone with Downs.
Years ago, doctors frequently told parents of kids born with Downs syndrome that they’d never accomplish much. Telling parents that their kids would be capable of performing “only the simplest of tasks” is not only cruel but also factually inaccurate, as evidenced by the extraordinary advocates who’ve lent their voices to the video.
“I’m a lobbyist on Capital Hill,” one man says pointedly into the camera. When the doctor asserts that people with Downs could never have “a regular life with lasting relationships,” the camera cuts to a happy middle-aged couple who point out, “We’ve been together 14 years.”
Physicians used to cite the fact that people with Down Syndrome have weaker muscle tone as a reason why they shouldn’t play sports, but in recent years we’ve seen a boon of incredibly strong advocates who have never let their Down Syndrome get in the way of becoming the best at what they do.
“I work hard and focus,” said Jon Stoklosa of Newark, Delaware. “I am showing people that I can do it.”
Jon was only 11 when he asked his parents if he could try powerlifting like his big brothers. After his parents gave him their support, Jon went on to become a weightlifter for more than twenty years, defying the odds and silencing the naysayers. Now 37 years old, he can bench 405 pounds and regularly competes in the Special Olympics.
“We didn’t listen to anybody,” said Jon’s dad, Hank Stoklosa. We had some very good trainers involved so we were never afraid,” Stoklosa told TODAY. “We also pushed Jon out as far as he could go, safely, of course.”
There’s also a misconception that people with Down syndrome can’t have meaningful careers or even hold down a regular job, but Collette DiVitto is here to show people just how wrong that concept is. After being turned down at commercial bakeries, Collette decided to start her own bakery — and hire only people with disabilities to work there.
“I love to bake. I had been taking baking classes since I moved to Boston. I tried to get a job and they said I was not a good fit,” Collette said. “I had to open a cookie company to also create more jobs for people with disabilities.”
“I feel amazing and empowered. This is really really important to me. Do not focus on people’s disabilities, just focus on their abilities. No matter who you are, you can make a difference in the world.”
Sara Hart Weir, president of NDSS, says the intention of the video was not just to celebrate 40 years of advocacy, but to honor those who have succeeded in blowing those misconceptions out of the water.
“The determination of individuals with Down syndrome is just a force. These self-advocates are advocating to have the same rights as every other American,” Sara stated. “We need their voices more than ever. We need to modernize public policy to allow individuals with Down syndrome to achieve the American dream.”
This video is so powerful! Rather than listening to people who think Down Syndrome leads to “a lifetime of limitations,” these incredible self-advocates are here to tell the world that those limitations are “yours, not mine.”
Watch the whole thing below and be sure to share to spread this empowering message further.
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