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 Living with Down Syndrome as a High School Sophomore

10/22/2018 12:00 AM

​When I think about having a disability, I smile. As my mom helps me put my thoughts into words, I like to talk about living with Down syndrome and how RPS 205 helps me learn, grow and succeed despite my disability.

In case you didn't know, RPS 205 has one of the best special education programs in the state of Illinois. The quality of its early childhood program is recognized statewide. By the time I entered kindergarten, I knew 200 sight words plus more than 150 words in sign language! 

I have friends with and without disabilities, because I am almost always included in regular classes with other kids. Regular and special education teachers help me break down concepts in a way I can understand. The teachers are accommodating, and my amazing paraprofessionals have been so supportive. I think paras are kind of like having a school mom, helping with school work and keeping me organized. Everyone should have one! I want to be a para when I grow up!

I've worked really hard to do well on homework and tests and get all A's … I am close! I want good grades so I can get into college, and they will know I'm a very hard worker.

Like other kids my age, I have a job. I work at Beef-A-Roo. I work hard in the dining room cleaning, delivering orders to tables and greeting people. I love it! I also volunteer at the Discovery Center Museum and enjoy working with young kids. 

I also love theatre. Guilford High School has a great theatre department, and I really like performing in shows at Rock Valley College's Starlight Theatre​. I've done "Beauty and the Beast" and "Shrek!" 

I am also part of the Guilford High School Cheerleading team. It's cool! We practice and cheer at football games. I get to meet new friends and show our support for the team.

I never think about being the only person with Down syndrome doing any of these things or where I'm at in life. I know it takes me a little longer to do things—like learning how to drive. I passed my permit test with a lot of studying to get the required 80% correct, but "Behind the Wheel" is a work in progress. Stress the "work," as I still need lots of practice!

I like to think I'm famous because I've been on TV and spoken to groups about Down syndrome. (Mom says I'm not famous.) I think it's important to speak about my disability because people may go to school or work with people with special needs and need to realize people like me are awesome!

Thank you to my friends, teachers, paras and parents for such good support. Watch out, college, here I come!

Guilford High School cheerleader and Beef-A-Roo employee, Colleen Maher.
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