October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time to spread awareness not only about what Down syndrome is, but about the wonderful things people with the condition are doing in the world. We have tradition of showcasing people with Down syndrome and their significant accomplishments and contributions during October. Here are just a few of the amazing individuals and what they have achieved!

Zach Gottsagan
Zach Gottsagan, award-winning actor presents at the Oscars

The American actor shot to stardom with his award-winning performance in the film, “The Peanut Butter Falcon.” He was nominated for six acting awards and won two for his role as Zak, a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from the nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. On February 9, 2020, Zach became the first person with Down syndrome to present at the Academy Awards. He and his “Falcon” co-star, Shia LaBeouf, presented the award for live-action short film.

Chelsea Werner
Chelsea Werner, champion athlete and magazine cover girl

Chelsea Werner is a four-time United States Special Olympics Gymnastics Champion and two-time World Champion in Gymnastics. This despite her parents being told she would always have low muscle tone, according to her website https://chelseaworldchampion.com/. After being featured on the “Today” show in 2014, clothing company H&M hired her a commercial and her modeling career began. Since then, she’s been featured on two magazine covers and campaigns for major brands, including Tommy Hilfiger and Aerie.

Tommy Jessop
Tommy Jessop, successful British actor stars in prime-time BBC drama

Tommy Jessop has been a working actor since 2007. In addition to multiple awards and nominations for his performances, he is the first actor with Down syndrome to star in a prime-time BBC drama. He is also the first professional actor with Down syndrome to play Hamlet. The BBC Three documentary “Growing Up Down’s” followed the Blue Apple Theatre company’s touring production of the Shakespeare play starring Jessop. In July 2021, Jessop was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Winchester for his outstanding achievements in the entertainment industry.

Chris Nikic
Chris Nikic, athlete and Ironman triathlete

At 21, Chris Nikic became part of an elite group—an Ironman triathlete finisher. In November 2020, Nikic finished a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run at the Ironman Florida competition in Panama City Beach in 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds, becoming the first person with Down syndrome to complete the grueling competition. More importantly, perhaps, the Special Olympics athlete is inspiring others to do what he did to prepare for the Ironman—become 1% better every day. Learn more at https://chrisnikic.com/about/#betterchallenge.

Collette Divitto
Collette Divitto, baker and entrepreneur

After continually being turned down for jobs, Collette Divitto took matters into her own hands. Armed with her “Amazing Cookie” recipe and a whole lot of determination, Devitto founded Collettey’s Cookies in Boston. In late 2016, she was featured on a local news station and business started booming. Then national news outlets picked up her story, and Collette and her cinnamon chocolate chip cookies went viral. Today she employs 15 people, many with disabilities, and has sold more than 400,000 cookies!

A Salute to People with Down Syndrome

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. So, this week’s blogpost pays tribute to people with Down Syndrome who are accomplishing amazing things, as well as their families, teachers and therapists.

Here are some facts:

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, “Trisomy 21 (nondisjunction) Down syndrome is usually caused by an error in cell division called “nondisjunction.” Nondisjunction results in an embryo with three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two. Prior to or at conception, a pair of 21st chromosomes in either the sperm or the egg fails to separate.”

People with Down syndrome share certain physical characteristics including eyes that slant upwards, low muscle tone, a deep crease across their palms, and short stature. Though all people with Down syndrome experience some degree of cognitive delays, it is now understood, that they are capable of learning, have diverse interests, talents and strengths just like their typically developing peers.

Down syndrome also puts people with Down syndrome at higher risk “for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions,” says NDSS. Yet, medical advances have made most of these conditions treatable and have increased longevity dramatically. In 1983, most adults with Down syndrome could only expect to live to age 25, but today, most adults with Down syndrome live to at least 60 years of age.

Life expectancy isn’t the only thing that has changed over the last few decades. In recent years, people with Down syndrome have found success in school, at work and in relationships. They are becoming increasingly visible and accepted in most areas of our society.

Well known for his role as Corky Thatcher on ABC’s “Life Goes On,” Chris Burke is also NDSS Goodwill Ambassador. Burke works and blogs for the organization regularly. Lauren Potter made a name for herself on the hit show “Glee” playing cheerleader Becky Johnson. And more recently, Jamie Brewer played a clairvoyant on the hit show “American Horror Story.”

Madeline Stuart made her runway modeling debut in 2015 and followed that up with the launch of her own fashion label at this year’s NY Fashion Week!

People with Down syndrome are also making their marks in the world of visual art. Check out these online galleries on the website of the National Association for Down Syndrome.org to see how people with Down syndrome are expressing their creativity.

But one doesn’t have to be a celebrity or artist to be a successful person with Down syndrome. According to Babble,  people with Down syndrome have made headlines recently for their academic and political accomplishments as well. For instance, Megan McCormick graduated with honors and at the top of her class from Bluegrass Community Technical College in Kentucky, becoming the first person in the U.S. with Down syndrome to do so. And in 2013, Angela Bachiller became the first councilwoman with Down syndrome.

The outlook for people with Down syndrome is brighter than ever but greater awareness about their talents, abilities, and of what they have to offer our society is still needed. According to Read and Spell.com, “In the United States a recent national survey showed that 56% of people with Down syndrome who are working are in paid positions. They may be in different kinds of work including supported employment positions in which a job coach eases the transition to a working environment, sheltered employment in which most of the other workers also have Down syndrome or competitive employment where they are the only individual with a learning difficulty in their place of work. An additional 3% are self-employed.”

For more information about Down syndrome and Down syndrome Awareness Month, visit nads.org and  ndss.org


Sky’s the Limit for People With Down Syndrome!

Photo of Eli Reimer

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time to celebrate people with Down Syndrome and their significant accomplishments and contributions. It’s also the perfect time to advocate for the acceptance, inclusion, and inherent value of people with the condition.

In recognition of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and the impressive abilities of people with the condition, Enabling Devices has put together this list of awe-inspiring people with Down Syndrome. Read on and be amazed!

Image of ZhouZhou
Yizhou Hu, orchestral conductor

The son of a professional cellist, Yizhou Hu (ZhouZhou),who was born with Down Syndrome, inherited his father’s musical talent. Despite the fact that he can’t read music, ZhouZhou, has become a successful orchestral conductor.

Image of Angela Bachiller
Angela Bachiller, councilwoman

Down syndrome hasn’t stopped this young woman from pursuing a career in Spanish politics. Bachiller was only 30 years old when she was appointed to a seat on city council of Valladolid in 2013.

Image of Luke Zimmerman
Luke Zimmerman, actor

Best known for his role on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Zimmerman, has also appeared on TV series, Glee and Getting On and played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet on the stage.

Image of Madeline Stuart
Madeline Stuart, professional model

According to the Mighty, Stuart is the first model with Down syndrome to have seven— ­­count em—modeling contracts. Like other models, Stuart’s modeling jobs help to sell clothes and make-up. But Stuart, who walked the runway at N.Y. Fashion Week last year, also uses her fame to fight discrimination against people with disabilities.

Image of Melissa Reilly
Melissa Reilly, special Olympian, Down syndrome advocate, college student and senatorial intern

Talk about busy! Where does Reilly find the time to be good at so many things? It’s hard to believe that Reilly’s parents once feared that she might not be able to learn, attend school or live a normal life. Today, they are among the 79 percent of parents and guardians of children with Down syndrome who told doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston that “their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with Down syndrome.”

Image of Tim Harris
Tim Harris, restaurateur

When he opened Tim’s Place in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2010, Harris was the first person with Down syndrome ever to own his own restaurant. Regulars were crest-fallen when they learned earlier this year, that Tim’s Place was closing. The reason? Harris had fallen in love with a young woman who lived in Denver. He was moving there to be closer to her. Harris says he will open a new restaurant there.

Photo of Eli Reimer
Eli Reimer, climber

In 2013, when she was just 15, Eli (Elisha) Reimer became the first person with Down syndrome to climb to the base of Mount Everest. Her father, who accompanied her on the trip, trained Eli.

Image of Michael Jurogue Johnson
Michael Jurogue Johnson, painter

Few visual artists achieve the success of this prolific and self-taught artist with Down syndrome. Johnson’s work has been compared to the work of Henri Rousseau and Edward Hicks. Since 2000, Johnson has been commissioned to paint over 500 portraits and according to Artprize, his work is owned by the likes of Hilary Clinton, Steven Spielberg, Liam Neeson and Mike Meyers.