Down syndrome representation gives my brother a voice

Courtesy the Deloian family
Down syndrome representation gives my brother a voice

By Olivia Deloian

On June 6, 2007, the lives of my family and I were changed for the better. On that day, my little brother Patrick was born. After undergoing open heart surgery at two months old, initially only being fed with a feeding tube, making countless trips to the hospital and receiving a diagnosis of bronchiectasis, stories like his deserve to be told.

Patrick was born with Down syndrome, and he was the one who introduced me to the disabled community—a beautiful, loving and yet commonly underrepresented one. Though we have made progress giving disabled people a platform in 2018, we can still strive to do better. We need to give more individuals with Down syndrome representation in the media by telling their stories and recognizing their accomplishments.

World Down Syndrome Day is coming up on March 21 and is celebrated annually to raise awareness and recognize individuals with Down syndrome.

On Feb. 7, Lucas Warren, a 1-year-old from Dalton, Georgia, was named the first ever Gerber baby with Down syndrome. In a Feb. 7 interview with Today, Warren’s father said, “We’re hoping this will impact everyone—that it will shed a little bit of light on the special needs community and help more individuals with special needs be accepted and not limited. They have the potential to change the world, just like everybody else.” 

Baby Lucas’ selection as a Gerber baby is a milestone, and there are other firsts in the Down syndrome community that should be celebrated.

According to Parent24, a website for parental and familial guidance, Isabella Springmuhl Tejada, a 20-year-old from Guatemala, is the first fashion designer with Down syndrome as well as the first to be featured at London fashion week in 2016.

According to its website, many universities had declined her admission because of her disability, yet Tejada was able to overcome that discrimination with her talent. Jamie Brewer, a 33-year-old actress who has starred in four seasons of “American Horror Story,” was also the first woman with Down syndrome to model during New York Fashion week in 2015. 

Brewer has always been a strong proponent for disability awareness and acceptance, using her voice as an actress to promote change. According to a March 7 Today article, Brewer was vital in the elimination of the R-word when she was a teenager and advocated for legislation in Texas in favor of more supportive language. 

Individuals with Down syndrome not only have the potential to change the world but are and have been doing so already. People with this disability made these changes, but it is non-disabled people’s responsibility to continue practicing inclusion and providing a platform to tell these stories of change.

The individuals initiating these firsts are people my brother can look up to. Patrick is the light of each of my family members’ lives. He reminds us every day that he can, and has, overcome the countless obstacles coming his way since his earliest moments. Patrick deserves to see people who look like him in his favorite shows, creating clothing brands, making art or furthering activism. With this representation and Patrick’s own amazing abilities, he can even achieve a first of his own.

With continued representation, the Down syndrome community can continue to flourish and change the world. Yes, we’ve come a long way, but for people like Patrick, let’s go even further.