October is Down’s Syndrome Awareness Month. The purpose is to raise public awareness and advocate for acceptance of people with the condition.
To play our part, here at Pobl, we have been finding out about some of the myths and facts surrounding Down’s Syndrome and speaking to Carol, a lady who has Down’s Syndrome and lives at one of our supported living services.
There are many different untruths circulating about Down’s syndrome – and for us here at Pobl, it’s hugely important that they are replaced with facts.
We could write all day about the misconceptions of Down’s Syndrome, but we thought it would be best illustrated with Carol’s story…
Carol is a fun-loving, energetic and engaging woman who has Down’s Syndrome.
She is 41 years old and lives a largely independent life at our supported living service in Abergavenny.
Growing up, she lived on the family farm, where she helped her father to look after the animals, completing farm chores and took on very important roles; even delivering lambs.
She moved into our supported living service in 2008, when she left the farm and set out to lead a more independent life. And that’s exactly what she does.
Carol attended college to learn about two of her passions – cooking and retail. She decided to pursue the latter in her third year and went on to work as a cashier for 13 and a half years. Carol says, “My favourite part of the job was meeting all of the people, serving them and helping them.”
Most recently, she has used her retail skills at Dog’s Trust but she still loves to indulge in her love for cooking at home.
Carol’s Support Worker, Sarah says, “We recently set up a ‘Come Dine With Me’ style competition where the individuals we support made dishes from around the world. Carol researched Mexican recipes to create a 3 course meal which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. She won 1st place.”
Being the hostess with the mostess is something that comes naturally to Carol. She loves to party and is always the first person on the dance floor. Sarah says, “Carol has a very sassy personality, she’s mischievous, loves music and is definitely not shy. She knows what she wants and knows her own mind.”
And that trait became particularly clear when Carol decided to end a 17 year relationship with her fiancé. She says, “I asked him to marry me and we were planning the wedding but it came to a point where he wasn’t being very nice to Sarah, my Support Worker. I didn’t like the way he spoke to her, so I decided he wasn’t the type of man I wanted to be with anymore.”
Reiterating the point, Sarah says, “Carol likes good manners. She is a very polite person with lots of empathy. She knows when people are upset and does her best to help them to feel better.”
That’s where Carol’s mischievous side kicks in! Carol says, “I love to play pranks. I hide and scare people – especially new Support Workers. I’ve made everyone jump a few times. I love to tickle people and dress up in scary costumes!”
Whilst Carol’s cheeky personality is something to celebrate, a real challenge is getting people to accept her for who she really is. Sarah says, “People can be very naïve and often treat people with Down’s Syndrome like children.”
“Carol gets out and about on her own, she uses public transport and goes shopping. When we go out for coffee, I get strange looks when I leave her to her own devices. People can’t understand why I would let her leave without me or go off on her own.” Sarah, Carol's Support Worker
In addition to this, Sarah has also experienced some embarrassing situations elsewhere. She says, “I’ve been at parties where there have been raffles and someone with Down’s Syndrome has won a bottle of wine.
“The prize giver has then gone to refuse the prize because they couldn’t possibly be allowed to drink alcohol. I’ve had to explain that the individual can of course, drink alcohol and are partial to a glass or two. People just don’t understand that we are dealing with independent adults.”
And that’s really what Down’s Syndrome Awareness Month is all about – raising awareness and breaking down barriers.
When you have a conversation with Carol, it’s clear to see that the only people missing out are the ones with misguided ideas of the condition.
Carol lives her life to the full – even with the added pressure of being under scrutiny and judgement of some members of society. If that doesn’t show strength of character, we’re not sure what does!