People with Down syndrome answer uncomfortable questions

Can adults with Down syndrome live on their own?

Can they have a job? 

Can they drive?

Can children with Down syndrome learn to read or ride a bike? 

These are some of the difficult questions on the minds of prospective parents who have just been told their unborn child will likely have Down syndrome.

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society searched the most asked questions online about Down syndrome and has launched a new campaign to answer them.

The questions are answered in 40 unscripted YouTube videos featuring adults and children with the developmental disability.

“We want to dispel myths and really just show that human side, because it is a confusing time,” said Ed Casagrande, the society’s treasurer. 

Casagrande’s three-year-old daughter Emma has Down syndrome. He can clearly recall what he experienced when he first found out.

“It is like you are hit with a ton of bricks, and it is, you know, pressure and confusion, and it is just a lot of what-ifs,” he said.

Ed Casagrande and daughter Emma

Ed Casagrande and daughter Emma, 3, during playtime in their Toronto home. (CBC)

So can a person with Down syndrome have a job? 

Just ask 23-year-old Travis Morris of London, Ont., who works at the Lone Star Texas Grill as an assistant host.

“Having Down syndrome just means that it takes me a bit longer to learn things,” he said. “I have dreams, I have hope.”

His dream right now is to become a full-time host at the restaurant. In the future, he hopes to meet someone and move out of his parents’ home.

Can Morris get his driver’s licence? Yes if he passes the test.

The videos have been viewed more than 91,000 times after being launched just over two weeks ago.

A lot has changed since Morris was born. New non-invasive prenatal blood tests have made it much easier to determine if a baby will likely have Down syndrome. 

Casagrande worries about the implications of these new tests.

“This campaign isn’t about ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life.’ It is really about pro-information: giving that other side of the story, the human side, so you can really see what it is really, truly like to have a child with Down syndrome or to be someone with Down syndrome.”

The group estimates one in 781 people in Canada are born with Down syndrome. It also estimates 75 per cent of women choose to end the pregnancy after finding out their baby is likely to have Down syndrome.

Casagrande acknowledges he’s concerned about that choice and the impact a dwindling Down syndrome community could have on his daughter Emma in the future.

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CBC | Health News