These Inspiring Band Members Have Down Syndrome and Autism

A punk band recently made it into the semi-finals of the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual song competition that's popular in Europe.

Usually, this would be just ordinary music news except there's something extra-cool about PKN (Pertti Kurikan Nimipaivat): all the band members have Down syndrome and some also have autism, but they use their music to raise awareness about disabilities.

The legendary Finnish band beat out 17 other competitors and will represent Finland at the end of May in the semi-finals in Vienna. The band members have been playing since 2009, when they met through a workshop run by a nonprofit in Helsinki that offers services for people with developmental disabilities. They were also featured in a documentary called "The Punk Syndrome."

Check them out playing the song "Aina Mun Pitaa," which translates to "I Have To." It's a song about struggling with the everyday tasks of life:

Now, I don't have any particular aspirations for my son, Max, to grow up and be a punk rocker—but if that's what he wants to do, heck, so be it. (And maybe, just maybe, someday he'll thank me for that drum set he plays during music therapy.)

People like these guys give me hope for his future, both as an adult and as a job-holder. They're also paving the way for kids with disabilities like Max in that they're showing the world the abilities of those with disabilities. PKN is breaking stereotypes of what people with Down syndrome and autism can do: Yes, they can be really talented! Yes, they can win competitions! Yes, they can be edgy! The more people understand that those with special needs can do mainstream things, the more their minds will open up.

As the band's bass player, Sami Helle, said, "We don't want people to vote for us to feel sorry for us, we are not that different from everybody else—just normal guys with a mental handicap."

Ellen Seidman is a mom of two, editor, and professional snacker who blogs daily at Love That Max. You can find her pondering special needs parenthood and other important topics (such as what her next snack will be) on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Google+ even though she still hasn't totally figured out what that is.

Photo of the PKN band members courtesy of Twitter/BBC News (World)

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