Jeffrey’s Journey: Life, Love, and Down Syndrome
World Down Syndrome Day
World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is an international awareness day observed on March 21st each year. This day is celebrated to raise public awareness about Down syndrome and promote the rights, inclusion, and well-being of people with Down syndrome.
The theme for WDSD 2023 is ‘With Us, Not For Us‘, which highlights the importance of involving individuals with Down syndrome in decision-making processes that affect their lives. The individuals with Down syndrome frequently receive inadequate or controlling support. Their support system and outside world will do things FOR them, not WITH them. Hence, the reason they want to feel like normal and be treated like a normal person.
An Interview with a Down Syndrome Superstar!
In this interview, we got a chance to hear from our Client, Jeffrey with Down syndrome and learn about him, his experience as an individual and his aspirations. We can foster a more inclusive and supportive society where everyone can thrive by amplifying the voices of people with Down syndrome.
- Please introduce yourself, tell us a little about your life to date and your disability.
My name is Jeffery and I currently live in a LGA Blacktown , a part of Greater Western Sydney. I’m 25 years old. I have one brother and one sister. My mum died passed away when I was just two years old, and so my father raised myself and my siblings. Unfortunately, my father passed away one year ago and now, I live with my beautiful auntie Natalie. I love living with Aunt Natalie, who takes very good care of me. She has three children who all live at home. They are my cousins, Jason, Joshua, and Emma. I’m living a good life and consider myself pretty lucky to have a great family. Oh, and I also have down syndrome – but I don’t let this define me.
- How have your friends and family supported you throughout your journey.
Before my dad passed away, it was him and my brother who supported and took care of me. But now, I live with my auntie Nat, and she helps me with the things which my dad used to. These include cooking, cleaning, and my shopping. She does my hair most days as well. I love it when she does my hair – She has the magic touch. One of my favourite things to do with Auntie Nat is to go shopping. She has taught me how to save and look out for the specials. We call it ‘yellow ticket hunting’.
Outside of my family, I have a girlfriend, Josh. We go out sometimes to movies but most of all, we go every year to Christmas Carols in December. All in all, I have a lot of people that support me, but my Auntie Nat is the best!
- How have you developed your social skills and relationships with others, despite the challenges of Down Syndrome?
My Auntie Nat teaches me good skills and how to be polite. I use my manners by saying “hello,” “thank you,” and “please.” Being kind to people is important, and that’s how we make good friends. Sometimes I can be a bit shy, but my Auntie Nat always tells me to smile at people, and sometimes I even shake their hands. I love talking to people and having fun!
- What advice would you give to other people with Down Syndrome who may be struggling to find their purpose or direction in life?
My advice to people with Down Syndrome who may not be able to find their purpose or direction in life is that we are all normal and the same. Even if it’s hard to talk or if you’re shy, remember that we are just special in our own way. We should treat everyone the same and appreciate our own beauty. Auntie Nat always tells me that nobody is different and I’m beautiful. I believe that you are too!
- What are some of your proudest accomplishments, and how have they impacted your life?
One of my proudest accomplishments is being able to do my own shopping and handle my bills at the register. I can even take money out of the ATM by myself! I feel very smart. I also go to the doctors and tell them what’s wrong with me when I’m not feeling well, and they assist me. I’m also able to make phone calls and remember important information like my address and phone number. I feel very clever!
- What are some of the biggest misconceptions about Down Syndrome, and how do you hope to change people’s perceptions?
Sometimes people give me funny looks and it makes me sad. I want everyone to be nice to me and see me as a normal person, because that’s what I really am. People need to know that having Down Syndrome doesn’t make us that different from them, we’re just a little bit special. I hope to change people’s view by showing them that I can do many things that others can do, and by being a good friend and a good person.
- How has Maple Community Services helped you overcome challenges or obstacles that you’ve faced?
Maple has been very good to me. They come and pick me up to take me to the café. We go for coffee and cake, and then they take me back home. They make sure I have my seatbelt on, and a nice man comes to my Auntie Nat’s house. He knocks on the door and says, “Jeffrey time” and he opens the door for me. He tells me that I’ve been well behaved and wishes me a good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be driven by them.
- Can you share any specific example of time when Maple Community Services went above and beyond to support you?
Yes! I was scared about driving with a new driver/support worker, but they were really nice to me. They always drove safely, stopped at red lights, and followed the rules. I felt very comfortable with them by the end and I am grateful for their kindness.
- What are your future goals and aspirations, and how do you plan to achieve them?
My goals are to become a great cook like my Aunt Nat, who makes amazing food. I also want to keep my house tidy and clean, and eventually buy my own home. I dream of getting married and having children and driving a car around all day long. Sometimes, I aspire to become a doctor like my cousin Emma, who is very intelligent. However, I know I don’t want to be a chef like my cousin Jason – which is strange because I love food.
To achieve my goals, I plan to work hard and pursue my passions, take relevant courses, and learn from others.
As we learned from our interview that they have unique views and valuable insights to offer, and we must cooperate to ensure that their voices are heard, and their rights are protected. They love doing things with the people, just like a normal human being. As we work to make our society more inclusive and accepting of all, let us continue to celebrate and support the Down Syndrome community.