Written by Manjeet Ghangass, BCPF Member & SALN Member
October 25, 2020
I have overcome many barriers in life, including childhood trauma, but the biggest obstacle I have had to face in my life so far is being born with Down Syndrome. I am strong, resilient, and brave. Though, the older I get, the more I realize that being born with Down Syndrome really should not have been one of the toughest obstacles to overcome. This is because disability is not the obstacle – the way society treats people with disabilities is the real obstacle. I have overcome the challenges of being born with Down Syndrome through words of encouragement from friends and learning from others’ motivational life stories. I have also learned many effective coping strategies for living a good healthy life by participating in activities that were person-centered. Activities and lessons focused on people’s strengths should be the goal for all support staff of people with disabilities. We deserve to be considered as people first and not just be seen by the labels others give us. I have learned that self-advocacy is one of the most important tools for success but that it is also very important to look out for others who cannot advocate for themselves. I was lucky growing up that I had a group of extremely close friends. We helped each other advocate for our rights. And by advocating for my own needs in high school, I was able to have multiple Individualized Educational Plans, necessary modifications to the curriculum, and extra instructional teaching supports that helped me find alternative ways of reaching my goals and being happy. I have learned that I have to be a self-advocate to get the best supports, it is necessary. But a question I have for service providers and government officials is why aren’t individualized person-centered supports the norm – why do we have to fight for our basic rights and needs? Without the wonderful positive life experiences of many truly caring people supporting me with my desires to live this kind of healthy, happy, safe, successful, and fully independent lifestyle I would not be where I am right now in life. I would not be the kind of person I am today and truly believe that I most definitely would not still be alive today. I am very grateful for the many people who have stood by my side, who helped me when I needed help, who loved me through the good times and bad. I want to show my appreciation for the trustworthy people who have helped me – my mom, best friends, and my boyfriend – I am proud to know you and thank you for all that you do. My wish for the future is that all people would have this kind of support, person-centered support. And not just from family and friends, but from service providers and the government as well. Please remember that we are people, too, and deserve to be treated how you would want to be treated if you were in our situation. We’re all in this together.