Monday, May 20, 2013

Disability Doesn't Even Slow Down Bridget Brown

From being the first student with Down syndrome mainstreamed in her school district to starting her own advocacy organization, Bridget Brown's journeys are far and wide
Living like a movie star for a week, Bridget Brown of Darien had a small part in a movie with Miley Cyrus. Brown also has her own consulting business, works as a dental assistant’s assistant and has many more jobs in life few of us would ever conquer. 
Having Down syndrome, the 27-year-old woman is considered to be disabled, but you would never know by the full life she leads.
Brown was the first person with a disability included in her school district and is a strong advocate of inclusion. Among her dislikes is hearing someone be insulted.
"Don’t call people retarded," Brown says. "I got called that, I was angry and wanted to cry.”   
Another fight Brown goes up against is mothers who want to abort their babies when they find out the baby has Down syndrome.
"Think of other options," she says. "Have the child. There are many couples that would take a child with Down syndrome. There are support groups. One is the National Association of Down Syndrome. I will even talk to you if you are thinking of getting rid of the baby. Give it a try. Then adopt."
Bridget and her mom, Nancy, are best friends. 
"When I see my mom," Brown explains, "I’m reminded of my grandma. I can tell how much love my grandparents had and I wanted that."
Q. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
A. My biggest challenge is learning to live a full life with a disability and being an advocate for myself and for others. 
Q. What inspired you to take this challenge?
A. I was the first person included in my school starting in preschool all the way through high school. So from the beginning of my life, I have learned to be an advocate for people with disabilities and for myself. I started to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities when I went to Springfield in eighth grade and started to advocate for people to live in their community. This is a lifelong challenge because we have a long way to go in our state when it comes to including people with disabilities in their schools and communities. I continue to help people find their voice so they can share their hopes and dreams with the world.
Q. Did you succeed?
A. I think my job is to be a hope holder and encourage people to dwell in the possibilities. I have my own consulting organization called Butterflies for Change and I am a national Keynote Speaker. I work in the dental field and for PACE as a disability spokesperson. Yes, I did succeed at being included in my school, and I succeed when I work with individuals with disabilities and help them find their voice. I help people understand inclusion and welcome people with disabilities by opening their hearts, minds and doors for them. I think I have been successful sharing hope and encouraging others. I have lots of goals.  I would like to go to college, continue my acting career and be in more movies, and grow my advocacy organization Butterflies for Change. I would like to train other people with disabilities to be public speakers. I would also like to write a book to help people with disabilities find their own voice. 
I belong to a book club, I love working on my family tree, I belong to a friendship bible group, and I am an actress with the LaGrange Special needs theater Group. We are doing Sound of Music in November and I am excited because  I just found out that I will play Maria. I am on the board for the National Association for Down Syndrome. I am also here to help others. My saying is: HOPE GIVES US THE COURAGE TO TAKE A CHANCE ON OUR FUTURE.
About this column: We’re dedicating the months of April and May to telling the stories of people in the Chicago area who have overcome challenges, creating positive change in their own lives or in communities. Sponsored by Grape-Nuts.

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