Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Local trainer pays goodness forward

from local 12 WKRC CBS Cincinnati:
CINCINNATI (Liz Bonis) -- A local fitness specialist who has quite a story to tell is now helping others in a very unique way.

Josh Harris, a person trainer, said, "I was 335 pounds and I was struggling with addictions and all kinds of stuff that were negatives. I was able to turn it around. I lost 165 pounds and that's how I ended up here."

Hard to believe when you look at Josh now that he used to look very different. How's he doing now?

"I am great, I am great. Life is good; God is good," Josh told Local 12.

Josh made a decision recently he would pay that goodness forward in a very unique way. He launched a personal training program at no charge to those with special needs. That's how Josh met Chad.

Chad Meyer said, "He helps me learn nutrition, and how to use the machines."

"Chad just came in here and he gave his best. And he just continually gives his best week in and week out," Josh said.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Making Your Mark: Grocery dance

by LaSalle Blanks from ABC 13 News Now:
Virginia Beach -- A father, daughter dance isn't unusual. It is if it's in an aisle at the grocery store. That's exactly what happened when Dave Floyd took his 11 year-old daughter, Lauren, to Food Lion in Virginia Beach.
"That's a typical day at the grocery store," Dave said. "She wanted to dance and I pulled the phone out."
After posting it on Facebook, 24 hours later Dave's and his daughter's video had more than 30,000 likes.
"This just went crazy," Dave said. "I couldn't believe the reaction to a simple thing like shopping at the grocery store."
Dave hopes the video can help change perceptions. His daughter Lauren has Down Syndrome. But in the video, she also has a big smile, energy and joy. Dave wants people to see that in the video.
"I want them to see a typical child," he said.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Family that embraces daughter is great gift

by Hellen Middlebrook from Pacific Daily News:
For most of us, friends are a normal part of life. But what if your life isn't normal? And what if you aren't?
Deborah, our daughter with Down syndrome, has been growing up without friends. I know this is not the case for every child with disabilities; those who go to school usually experience some level of friendship. Deborah has been in similar settings, but these have not been enough to cultivate friendships.
In her almost 15 years, I've watched Deborah be patronized by adults and rejected by her peers. Adults often treat her as if she's a teddy bear -- something to hug and say nice things at. Very rarely do adults actually talk with her.
With the exception of one young lady who has left the island, those of her own generation have ignored her. If they do see her, they don't acknowledge her. Deborah has never been invited to a birthday party or an outing. But she has been told to "go inside" when others have been outside playing.
Such things are hard on a mother's heart.
I know it can be difficult to understand her; I know it's also difficult for her to keep up with a conversation. And I know if she is ever to have friends, it's up to me to create the situations to foster friendships.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Central Florida Dreamplex opening for special needs families

by Roxanne Brown from Daily Commercial:
For years, pediatric physical therapist Amy Gomes has looked for a place in south Lake County where people with special needs can take classes, exercise, play, learn, spend time with their families and find employment.
Her search is finally over.The Central Florida Dreamplex, under the umbrella of the Central Florida Pediatric Therapy Foundation, will have a grand opening from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 10.
“It’s a place for entire families to go and collaborate, even if it means that someone in their family is in a wheelchair, has autism, Down’s syndrome or whatever it may be that classifies them as special needs,” said Cameron Gomes, Amy’s son, who will manage the facility. “The main thing is it’s a place where everyone can feel like they fully belong and that it fits the needs of the whole family.”
At the Dreamplex, people will find a climbing wall, which will allow children to develop their muscles with the help of therapists or parents without reaching scary heights. There will be wheelchair-accessible fitness equipment and suspended equipment designed for children with autism or sensory issues.
Inside, a mirrored area will be designated for Taekwondo, ballet, tumbling and other lessons, plus a snack bar to serve healthy foods and juices.
The gym also will be available for use by family members without special needs while their children are taking classes or participating in scheduled activities.
“Parents can get their workout in while their kids are doing their thing, and get that out of the way,” Gomes said, adding he wants to start adaptive sports programs at a local venue such as wheelchair soccer and basketball.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Down Syndrome Academy growth spurs expansion

Down Syndrome Academy growth spurs expansion
from The Observer &
The Down Syndrome Academy announced expansion of their post-High School educational and vocational facility for students with Down syndrome, increasing classroom capacity from 30 to 50 students.
The Down Syndrome Academy opened its doors in January 2014, and has seen steady growth as families seek much more than just a special needs day program.In attributing the Academy’s growth, founder and President Rosa Rocha says, “our unique curriculum endeavors to build on their High School education so they can reach their academic potential and apply it to a fulfilling work and social life. The social programs also help students and families navigate the tough transition to adulthood within a friendly and supportive community.”

Friday, December 26, 2014

Girl with Down syndrome gets new wheelchair, stolen one recovered

CORONA, Calif. >> A four-year-old girl with Down syndrome who had an highly-priced wheelchair stolen from the front of her households dwelling in Corona received a new one on Monday.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports a convoy of police officers delivered a new replacement wheelchair for Jocelyn Ordonez on Monday. Police vehicles rolled up to her residence with emergency lights flashing.
Police mentioned word about last weeks theft spread and they have been inundated with calls and emails with presents of assistance. The nonprofit group San Diego Down Syndrome utilised donations to buy the $2,500 replacement wheelchair for Joselyn.

Coincidentally, police received a tip on Monday and positioned the stolen wheelchair. Officer Jesse Cervantes says they dont have a suspect in the theft, but they plan to return it to Joselyn.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Eleven, With Down Syndrome, and Still a Santa-Loving Little Girl. Maybe.

by Amy Silverman from the parenting blog on The New York Times:
I’m beginning to suspect that my daughter Sophie no longer believes in Santa Claus.
Sophie is 11 (or as she’ll quickly correct you, 11 and a half) and preoccupied with the trappings of tween life – One Direction, cheerleading, mascara, boys. She recently announced that purple is no longer her favorite; now she’s into blue, a “grown-up color,” she tells me.
In many ways, though, my little girl is still just that. A little girl. Sophie sucks her thumb and carries around an old, stuffed Piglet. I had to get her Velcro-fastened tennis shoes for cheer, since she can’t tie her shoes. And for years, she’s dictated her Santa letter to me each December, afraid, she explains, that he’ll never be able to decipher her handwriting. She’s right, her handwriting is terrible, despite years of therapy.
Sophie has Down syndrome.
My husband, Ray, and I didn’t know Sophie had it before she was born; she was the first person with Down syndrome I’d ever met, this tiny, jaundiced baby with squinty eyes and a bad heart. In those early days, after talking to nurses and friends, I pieced together a few “facts,” sort of a playbook on D.S. Nothing particularly useful, as it turned out, but all I could handle at the time.
Sophie would be cheerful and loving, and maybe a little stubborn. She would never drive a car. She would probably be the Homecoming Queen in high school. She would live with us her whole life.
And she’d always believe in Santa Claus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New #IMREADY Campaign Pushes for Child Models With Disabilities to be Featured in Media

PHOTO: Ralph Lauren: William says #IMREADY for change. We want YOU to include models with disabilities in 2015.

Earlier this year, Target reached out to the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota in search of a child model. On December 14, the discount chain featured two-year-old Izzy Bradley who has Down syndrome.
This sparked a social media movement aiming to encourage the inclusion of models with disabilities in advertisements.
Launched last month by Changing the Face of Beauty, #15in2015 is the campaign vying to get 15 retailers to use models with special needs in 2015.
"I reached out to the co-founder to promote models being in ads and she was completely on board,” said Heather Bradley, mom of Izzy Bradley. “We thought this would be a great way to capitalize on the positive response from Izzy, so we decided to move this forward by getting the attention of other companies.”
And it’s working: This morning, Infantino announced on Facebook that they are the first of 15 brands to accept challenge of including models with disabilities in 2015.
"We are committed to using models that reflect the same diversity you see on a playground. Check out our Facebook page to see our cutie cover model, who is rocking her extra chromosome." -Infantino Toys
To get involved, parents post photos of their children onto Facebook, while hashtagging #IMREADY and #15in2015.
“Since Izzy was in the ad, Heather and I thought why don’t we promote these kids and say, ‘we’re ready, it’s time,’” said Katie Driscoll, co-founder of Changing the Face of Beauty. “That’s how we launched the #IMREADY portion and it’s already gone crazy.”
In addition to Target, Nordstrom has advocated featuring models with all abilities in their ads.
In the past, Driscoll’s five-year-old daughter Grace, who also has Down syndrome, appeared in the holiday lookbook of Tori Spelling’s Little Maven collection.
“She my motivation behind this and behind the change, Driscoll said. “I think that advertisers need to realize that people with disabilities make up one of the largest minorities in the world. Target and Nordstrom really set the precedence of inclusion. I really think the more we recognize that, the more other companies will catch on.”

Here are some of the hopeful faces of #IMREADY:
PHOTO: @Sears Camden says #IMREADY to be the next fresh face for Sears! YOU and Camden can take us one step closer to #changingthefaceofbeauty and helping reach the goal of fifteen new retailers in 2015. 
Meghan Roberson
PHOTO: @Sears Camden says #IMREADY to be the next fresh face for Sears! YOU and Camden can take us one step closer to #changingthefaceofbeauty and helping reach the goal of fifteen new retailers in 2015.
PHOTO: Janie and Jack: Kate says #imready to be the next fresh face for Janie and Jack! 
Janessa Gross
PHOTO: Janie and Jack: Kate says #imready to be the next fresh face for Janie and Jack!
PHOTO: Jadons wearing Target in this photo and wants to follow in Izzys footsteps and model for the company. 
Sheryl Smith
PHOTO: Jadon's wearing Target in this photo and wants to follow in Izzy's footsteps and model for the company.
PHOTO: Dash challenges Boden to continue to be a leader of inclusion advertising! #15in2015 #thellenshow #Miniboden #Boden 
Kim Kann
PHOTO: Dash challenges Boden to continue to be a leader of inclusion advertising! #15in2015 #thellenshow #Miniboden #Boden
PHOTO: Hey Carters Thechildrensplace ToysRUs/BabiesRUs Old Navy Gymboree Macys BabyGap Carolynn says #IMREADY for change. 
Geralynn Moore
PHOTO: Hey Carter's Thechildren'splace Toys"R"Us/Babies"R"Us Old Navy Gymboree Macy's BabyGap Carolynn says #IMREADY for change.
PHOTO: Ralph Lauren: William says #IMREADY for change. We want YOU to include models with disabilities in 2015. 
Genevieve Brown
PHOTO: Ralph Lauren: William says #IMREADY for change. We want YOU to include models with disabilities in 2015.
PHOTO: Crayola, we are ready...are you? You can join the #15in2015 challenge and help by #changingthefaceofbeauty. Join us! #IMREADY 
Becky Carey
PHOTO: Crayola, we are ready...are you? You can join the #15in2015 challenge and help by #changingthefaceofbeauty. Join us! #IMREADY
PHOTO: Carter says #iamready to be the next fresh face for Gap. YOU and Carter can take us one step closer to #changingthefaceofbeauty and helping reach the goal of fifteen new retailers in 2015. #15in2015 
Stacey Calcano
PHOTO: Carter says #iamready to be the next fresh face for Gap. YOU and Carter can take us one step closer to #changingthefaceofbeauty and helping reach the goal of fifteen new retailers in 2015. #15in2015
PHOTO: Miles wants to model for Macys, Honest Company and Janie & Jack.  
Andrea Winkler
PHOTO: Miles wants to model for Macy's, Honest Company and Janie & Jack.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Champion gymnast with Down syndrome overcomes obstacles, inspires others

by Scott Stump from
For Chelsea Werner, gymnastics started as a way to develop more muscle tone, a symptom from her diagnosis of Down syndrome. But now the sport is a way for her to show others just how much is possible for other athletes with the disorder.
Werner, 22, has transformed from being unable to execute simple muscle maneuvers to a four-time national championship at the Special Olympics (she also has an international championship under her belt). The Californian's inspiring journey is the latest installment TODAY's "I Am Unbroken" series, which examines stories of perseverance like that of Louis Zamperini, the World War II hero profiled in the best-selling book "Unbroken," which now has been made into a feature film directed by Angelina Jolie.
"She has put in this many years and hours of gymnastics training and all those times when she didn't get a ribbon, and she kept going,'' Dawn Pombo, Chelsea's gymnastics coach, told TODAY. "She fits it to every aspect of what 'Unbroken' means.''

Monday, December 22, 2014

bakery seeks funds through crowsourcing, would provide jobs for those with developmental disabilities

by Larissa Mulkern from
WOLFEBORO — Professionally trained pastry chef Katie Johnson intends to raise more than just bread dough when she opens her new bakery, From Scratch Baking Co., this spring at 45 North Main Street.

Johnson, 29, a 2004 graduate of Kingswood Regional High School, intends to raise awareness and understanding by staffing her new business with workers with developmental disabilities. One of those workers will be her older sister, Kristin, who has Down syndrome but inspires Katie every day.
“I founded the bakery on the principle that while people with disabilities may have a unique set of challenges, they also have incredible talents and skills to offer the workplace.
“Kristin proves this every single day. She has taught me a lot about life and people — she’s very joyful. She tells is like it is.”
And Kristin happens to be very precise, a skill useful when measuring out ingredients, for instance, Katie noted during a recent tour of the new bakery location. Renovations are under way at the former site of the Evergrain natural food store.
Johnson said she chose to open as a business, rather than a nonprofit, to prove that working with people with disabilities is a viable business decision and does not need to be seen as charity. Her employees will work in baking, customer service and landscaping, with each employee matched with a role that aligns with their individual skill sets and talents.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sick kids flown to the North Pole for Santa

by Bill Kirkos CNN from WBST 42:
(CNN) -
While most children wait and hope Santa visits them at home on Christmas Eve, this year dozens of Denver-area children went directly to the big man's Arctic home turf.
The children, many of whom are being treated for serious illnesses or are victims of abuse or homelessness, were flown to the "North Pole" this holiday season on a Fantasy Flight.
The Fantasy Flight program began in 1992 at Washington's Dulles International Airport, and has since spread to Los Angeles and other airports around the country. Though the destination may be fantasy, the flight is not. Airline employees and retirees volunteer their time, and United Airlines donates the jets.
Children are selected from the Make-A-Wish-Foundation, children's hospitals and various youth social service establishments.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pope blesses special-needs child from Brownsville

A Brownsville family received blessings from Pope Francis on Wednesday at the Vatican—the same day as the Pope’s 78th birthday.
Two weeks ago, Dolores Zarate, wife and mother of two children, received the letter of a lifetime from the Vatican, which invited her family the be a part of the Papal audience.

Zarate had written a letter eight months ago and asked for a blessing from Pope Francis for her 13-year-old daughter, Zaraiah, who has Down syndrome, autism and seizures that affect her learning ability.
Zarate and her husband, Sergio, founded the non-profit organization Down by the Border to educate and encourage families of children with Down syndrome and other special needs. Sergio said his wife is determined to help their daughter overcome her battle to communicate.
On Wednesday, Dolores Zarate said she wished Pope Francis a happy birthday before introducing herself and her daughter. Zarate said Pope Francis bent down to kiss Zariah and said a prayer in Italian.
“Go in peace, yours is the kingdom in heaven,” Pope Francis said, before he reached into his pocket and presented the daughter and mother with a rosary.
In return, Zariah leaned her face against the Pope’s elbow and gave him a hug, something her parents said she never does.
A more complete version of this story is available on

Friday, December 19, 2014

Woman used daughter with Down syndrome to steal from Target

by Anthony Fay from 22 WWLP:
HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – Hadley police will be seeking an arrest warrant following a theft at the Hampshire Mall Target store, that was caught on surveillance video. Hadley police posted on their official Facebook page that they’re requesting the warrant for a 57 year-old woman from Agawam, who they say used her 25 year-old daughter (who has Down syndrome) to steal toys from the store.
Hadley police say that after a customer tipped them off to the theft, Target security reviewed surveillance footage, which showed the woman and her daughter placing toys into a carriage. The woman then allegedly left her daughter near an empty checkout lane, until a third person gave a signal once there were no nearby employees, and the daughter left the store with the merchandise.
Police say that the woman, whose name has not been released, was identified due to similar incidents that took place at stores in East Longmeadow and South Windsor, Connecticut. The warrant they are seeking is for the crime of larceny over $250.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


by Anna Bitong from Thousand Oaks Acorn:
Six-year-old Brianna Pitzele, who was born with Down syndrome, stood on the floor of the House of Representatives earlier this month and cast the final vote to pass the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which will allow people with disabilities to save money without losing government benefits.
Brianna’s father, Brad Pitzele, who advocated strongly for the bill, watched on Dec. 3 as his firstborn cast two votes in favor of the law on behalf of U.S. Reps. Julia Brownley and Cheri Bustos of Illinois, where Pitzele lived before moving to Thousand Oaks. The legislation passed overwhelmingly, 404-17, winning bipartisan support.
“I was overcome with joy,” Pitzele said. “There were tears streaming down my face. I was smiling and waving at her. She was blowing kisses at me and yelling ‘Daddy!’ from the floor up to me in the mezzanine.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act Passed in Senate Tuesday

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act Passed in Senate Tuesday
After Eight Years, Congress’ Most Bipartisan Bill Passes Set for a Presidential Signing
Washington, DC, December 17- Following overwhelming passage in the House of Representatives (404-17) last week, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (H.R. 647/S. 313) passed the US Senate as part of the Tax Extenders Package last evening. The ABLE Act is the most bipartisan, bicameral bill before the 113th Congress. The President now has ten days to sign the bill for it to become law.
No other bill before the 113th Congress equals or surpasses the ABLE Act’s bipartisan and bicameral support - 77 United States Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and the bill’s Senate Champions Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC). In the House, 381 Representatives, including a dedicated set of House Champions - Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX).
“Passage of the ABLE Act is a major victory for those with disabilities and their families,” Casey said. “This bill reminds us all that those with disabilities have a lot of ability. Soon those with disabilities and their families will be able to better save for their long-term care.”
“Some have called the ABLE Act the most significant piece of legislation affecting the disabled since passage of the American Disabilities Act nearly 25 years ago.  I got involved in this effort nearly 8 years ago with Senator Casey.  Families of severely disabled children came to us expressing the critical need for an easy way to save for their child’s future expenses, especially since many Americans with Down syndrome and autism are now outliving their parents,” said Senator Burr. “Most middle-class families don’t have the money to spend on lawyers and financial planners to set up sophisticated trusts to make sure that their disabled child will be OK long after they are gone.  What’s worse current federal law actually discourages parents from putting any assets in the name of their disabled child in fear of disqualifying them from federal programs down the road. It’s utterly unacceptable that our current laws doom a child born with a disability to a lifetime of poverty and dependence.  This is especially unfortunate when a parent or other family member has the resources and the desire to save and plan for that child’s future expenses but are advised by lawyers and planners not to.  The ABLE Act will take the first critical step in ending this injustice.”
NDSS has been one of the leading advocacy organizations behind the ABLE Act for over eight years and four Congress. Last week, ABLE House Champions renamed the landmark legislation to honor NDSS’ late Vice Chairman and chief ABLE Act architect Stephen Beck Jr., who passed away suddenly just days after the House passage. “The ABLE Act’s initial concept grew out of an idea around Steve Beck’s kitchen table, and now will be forever marked with his legacy,” said NDSS Chairman Rob Taishoff.
“The ABLE Act proves that people with disabilities and their families can make a difference. We fought long and hard to make the ABLE Act a reality for all people with Down syndrome and their families in this country,” said Sara Weir, NDSS interim President. “This landmark legislation puts a stake in the ground that people with disabilities, for the first time ever, can work and save money for the future. For NDSS, this has been a civil rights issue, and we can’t wait for President Obama to sign this bill into law.”
Under current law, they cannot have more than $2,000 worth of assets before critical government support programs they need are cut off.  In the face of enormous medical, transportation, and education costs, that amount does not extend very far and certainly hinders independent living.
The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), Autism Speaks and more than 100 other national organizations have endorsed the bill, which will ease the financial strain on families who have loved ones with disabilities.

About NDSS
The National Down Syndrome Society is a nonprofit organization representing the more than 400,000 Americans with Down syndrome. The mission of NDSS is to be the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. NDSS envisions a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations, and become valued members of welcoming community.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Members Offer Rare Display of Emotion With ABLE Act

by Matt Fuller from Roll Call:
There are many votes members of Congress cast that mean absolutely nothing. Procedural motions. Uncontroversial bills and amendments that are forgotten as soon as they are voted on.
Then there are other votes — those constituents may never notice but that are, for some lawmakers, unforgettable.
On Wednesday, the House passed a bill, 404-17, that would establish tax-exempt savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. The bill, which is expected to pass in the Senate, exempts savings, up to certain levels, and distributions from those savings for individuals and families applying for means-tested federal programs.
Currently, people with disabilities can lose access to federal programs such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income once they establish a certain level of savings.
For those eligible, the so-called Achieving a Better Life Experience Act could mean a more independent life, making it easier to prepare for future financial needs. For certain members of Congress, the bill means actually doing something.
For the bill’s sponsor, Florida Republican Ander Crenshaw, the measure is an emotional victory.
“It just means a lot,” Crenshaw told CQ Roll Call Tuesday, choking back tears. “Helpin’ a lot of people.”
“I just see their faces and it just …” he said, trailing off.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

URGENT: Call Your Reps & Urge Them to VOTE YES to the ABLE Act Tomorrow!

Down Syndrome Advocates:

Thank you for all the calls, emails, tweets and facebook posts over the last few weeks. We are closer than ever to the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (H.R. 647/S. 313). 

We still need your help!

Please contact your Members of Congress TODAY by clicking the TAKE ACTION button below, and calling your Representative asking them VOTE YES on the ABLE Act on Wednesday!

Thank you for helping to #passtheABLEact!


Ginny Sessions
Manager, Grassroots and Development Programming
National Down Syndrome Society