Friday, July 29, 2016

Born This Way, Season 2

Last year, A&E made every family raising a child with Down syndrome squeal with delight when it aired its reality tv series, Born This Way, which chronicles the day-to-day experiences of seven adults with Down syndrome. What had me the most excited about this series was that, while I have become a part of close-knit community of parents raising young children with Down syndrome, it's not often that I get to see what life is like for adults with T21. The show was a success and was picked up for a second season, which aired this past week.

Sean and his family
I was thrilled when Grace Hill Media, the publicity company doing outreach for the show, contacted me for a chance to interview one of the moms from the series! Sandra's son Sean is 22 and a self-proclaimed "ladies man". Seriously, his scenes are some of my favorites from season one and I can't wait to see what he's up to this time around. Sandra is a strong advocate for the Down syndrome community and a wealth of information for us moms new to the scene, so to speak. Below is the result of our interview, which is full of great information for you mamas raising kids with T21:

1. So often, the world paints us as martyrs for our children, constantly advocating for their education, health, well-being, and inclusion, but even in the 3 1/2 years I've had my son with Down syndrome, there are moments that I love that are exclusive to those of us raising children with special needs. What has been your most rewarding experience as a special needs mom?

--I completely agree. The ‘only special parents get special children’ stereotype sets the stage that only a saint can love and raise a child with a disability—and that’s so not true. I have so many moments, but I have to say the way Sean can light up a room when he enters with all of his confidence and so bravely starts talking to everyone present. Seeing Sean grow into a confident, independent adult is truly rewarding, and makes all the hard work in the past worth it.

2. What goals/dreams/hopes for Sean's future did you have when he was a baby? How have those aspirations changed as he's become an adult?

--as an only child with no close relatives I knew Sean would need to be independent…since none of us are immortal. As he has grown and as I have learned about the supports available his independence is still the goal, I just know he needs support and thankfully the services to provide that support are available. 

3. What advice do you have for those of us who are just starting our journey of raising a child with Down syndrome? 

--SAVE FOR COLLEGE! I had no idea the number of college programs that now exist would be available when Sean was a baby! So while you may need an ABLE Account (don’t save in your child’s name without it) or save in an account under your name, but save!

4. What do you think are Sean's greatest gifts and talents? What do you feel have been his greatest challenges?

--Sean has the most courage of anyone I know. While his articulation isn’t perfectly clear, he still will stand up in front of hundreds, and in one case thousands, of people and bravely speaks. His outgoing personality and appropriate social skills are his greatest assets. His greatest challenge—listening to his mother…he still is in that stage where he thinks I don’t know anything. 

5. If there was one thing you could change about special education, based on your experiences with Sean, what would it be?
---I would love that there would be no ‘special’ education at all. Just EDUCATION and every student would receive the supports, services, accommodations and modifications necessary for them to succeed. Every student would be welcomed into any classroom any extracurricular activity and acceptance for every student regardless of their individual gifts and needs would prevail.

I can't thank Sandra enough for her willingness to speak with me and share her insights! Born this Way airs on A&E on Tuesdays at 10/9c. And check out the trailer for season two here!