To celebrate World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, I reached out to parents around the world who have children with Down syndrome, as well as adults with Down syndrome, to share photos and descriptions of their kids or of themselves.
The result is 21 photos and short bios that provide a beautiful testimony to the global reach of Down syndrome, as well as the tremendous diversity among people with Down syndrome. Each child and adult shines as an individual, and the thing that holds them together is the portrait of a good life.
Juliana, 13, Germany
Juliana loves ballet, baking, going shopping, and eating ice cream with her girlfriends. She is also a keen swimmer and an astounding soccer expert. She has a heart of gold and smiles brighter than the sun!
Matthew, 6, USA
Matthew's laugh is infectious, and he brings genuine joy and love to those around him. He lives life to the fullest and his determination to be the best he can be motivates us all!
Phoenix, 5, Canada
Phoenix is a loving and sociable child who adores, and is adored by, her parents and extended family. She is kind, empathetic, and giving, and she has an outstanding sense of humor.
Sam, 20, Zambia (Born in Brazil)
"My name is Sam, and I am 20. I love music and could listen to it all day. I love to sing, and I want to be a Pastor like my Papa. I work on sermons, read words independently, and love to help my Mom cook. I am always onto the next fun thing, looking forward to all the excitement tomorrow brings. I love going out to movies and eating popcorn, and have asked many girls to marry me. I love doctors and all things medical. I am pretty sure I could be President."
Camden, 5, Utah, USA
Camden's smile takes up an entire room. He gives the best hugs and kisses, he loves to wrestle and swim, he's a movie buff, and you'll be his best friend forever if you give him a cookie and a hug.
Kennedy, 10, Colorado, USA
Kennedy loves to read books, hang out with her friends, shop for clothes and purses, model, and listen to music on her iPad. More than any of those things, Kennedy loves to dance! She is on a competitive dance team and takes several styles of dance. Her favorite is lyrical. Kennedy loves her life and tells people often that she is fabulous!
Timothy, 16, Russia
Timothy attends general remedial school. In addition, he is engaged in drawing, dancing, and singing. Together with other peers, he learns skills of feasible, useful labor.
Mollie and Maggie, 21, Zambia
Mollie and Maggie were born in Brazil and adopted to an American family when they were just about 1 year old. They are as different as night and day. Mollie loves to be served; Maggie loves to work. Maggie sets the table, gets drinks, helps fold laundry, and family friends love to have her for dinner because she works so much. Mollie will entertain a crowd with singing and dancing, and she loves being the center of attention. Maggie would prefer to hide in a corner, rather than be the focus. They both love each other, reading food magazines, and going out to eat and to the movies. They are spunky and fun and very, very stubborn.
Joy, 14 months, Georgia, USA
Joy has rocked her family's world, and only in the best of ways. She loves to play, explore, and be tickled! She makes her parents wonder why they were so scared during her birth to begin with. What a treasure and JOY she is!
Daxon, 4 1/2, Kansas, USA
Daxon is a charming young man with a magnetic personality. He loves socializing and making new friends! Daxon enjoys playing on his iPad, listening to music, watching Chuggington, and riding motorcycles. Daxon is eager to learn new things, and his biggest adventure yet is the exciting role of big brother!
Connor, 20, Colorado, USA
"I am 20 years old and an actor, athlete, and advocate. I live for gluten-free pasta. I don't really know what it means to have Down Syndrome. I just do my best at being me, learning new things, overcoming challenges, and having fun."
Evangelina, 3 1/2, Philippines
Evangelina (aka. Gellibean) loves to read books, play in the park, eat mangoes, and go to school. She keeps everyone in her family on their toes, and greets people she knows and loves with a hug. She is a seasoned model who loves the camera and is hoping to help #ChangeTheFaceOfBeauty in the Philippines. Being the baby with three older siblings has taught her that she can easily get what she wants by flashing her toothy grin and giving a hug and a kiss. You can read about Gellibean's adventures on her mom's blog, www.mommanmanila.com.
Josee, 2, Australia
Josee is a clever, bright, and engaging child who is dearly loved by her older siblings and parents. She is full of mischief and is a 'little cheeky monkey'! A blessing not a burden.
Isabella, 6, Missouri, USA
Isabella loves dancing, music, movies, giggling with her siblings, and letting them bounce her on the trampoline. She has a sensitivity and understanding of others' emotional needs, and she either brings joy or joins in their rejoicing.
Luciano, 1, Argentina
Luciano's parents didn't know he had DS before he was born. They love him so much.
Marissa, 24, California, USA
Marissa is following her dream of attending college. She is attending a post secondary program at Fresno State California called Wayfinders. She is living in student housing, paying her own bills, and following her passion for the arts by taking classes in drawing, painting, digital photography, and history of rock and roll. She is having the time of her life!
Caleb, 10, Missouri, USA
Caleb is very social and outgoing, and he loves to hang out with his big brother. He is very smart and loves to be helpful to his family and friends.
Saira, 6, India
Saira attends kindergarten at an inclusive school. She has very high myopia and severe hearing loss in one ear and mild hearing loss in the other. She is extremely musical and can sing and dance beautifully. She is a loving and happy child and has brought only happiness into her family's lives.
Scott, 26, Canada
Scott is very involved with Special Olympics. He plays baseball, basketball , soccer, floor hockey, golf, swimming, and track and field. His team just won the bronze medal in floor hockey in the B. C. Special Olympics winter games that were held in Kamloops B. C. Canada. Scott's dad, Brian, coaches most of the sports that he participates in. Scott is very social and loves his family.
Amanda, 44, Michigan, USA
A prolific writer, Amanda hails from Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula. This social butterfly shares moments of slapstick wit, ear-splitting singing vocals, and razor intuition in The North Side of Down, a new memoir co-authored by her sister, Nancy.
Kudananji, 2, Zambia
Amy Julia is the mom of three kids who love broccoli and hot dogs, and who ask for lollipops every day! Her guilty pleasures are Chardonnay and Diet Coke. She is also the author of Small Talk: Learning from my Children about What Matters Most and A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny. Visit her at amyjuliabecker.com.