I made my entrance into the world on Sunday, March 19, 1989. My Mom and Dad already had their hands full with my brother who was almost three. After a typical pregnancy and delivery, my parents were stunned to learn the news… I was born with Down syndrome.
Acting on the suggestion of a social worker at the hospital, my parents contacted the Association for Children with Down Syndrome, now known as ACDS, which specializes in the education of children with disabilities like mine. Six weeks later, Mom and I arrived to participate in the first “Infant Class,” at ACDS. We thrived. I was even the first baby in my class to learn to walk, at just nine months old!
Walking came quickly, but talking was harder for me, so I learned American Sign Language. My favorite signs were “cookie,” and “eat.” Mom and I started traveling to local elementary schools as Ambassadors for ACDS, where I got to show-off and teach others what a child with Down syndrome was capable of.
I started kindergarten in 1993, where four other children and I piloted the first inclusion class in the South Huntington School District. Today, integrated classes are an educational right but, for our district, we were the first! I loved being in classes with my typical peers. I stayed with them until seventh grade, when the academic demands became too challenging. I started taking smaller classes where I fine-tuned my skills.
When I was little, my family took me everywhere. From vacations to amusement parks to pumpkin picking to chopping our own Christmas tree… you name it we did it together.
Over the years, I became involved in Special Olympics swimming, gymnastics, and horseback riding. Later on, I was involved in typical dance programs and competed in dance competitions. I was in multiple musical theater productions though Saint Hugh Productions.
It was my years at Walt Whitman High school where I truly left my mark. I went to three proms, and walked in two fashion shows. I even escorted my principal down the runway during my senior year! I won some great awards, too. My photograph of Walt Whitman’s dance studio won the PTA’s Reflection contest, awarding me with special dance classes for myself and two friends. Soon after, I joined Walt Whitman High School’s Dance Ensemble. But, that wasn’t the only award that I won!
In 2007, I received the Conrad G. Hecht Award as the Outstanding Special Education Student of Suffolk County from the Long Island Association of Special Education Administrators. I was so proud of myself and so was my family. But, the awards didn’t stop there. In one of my proudest moments ever, I was recognized for all of my accomplishments by the Town of Huntington with a Proclamation!
I graduated from high school in 2007, but continued my education until I was 21. Although I was sad to leave, I was ready for the next chapter. I came full circle, and returned to ACDS to become a founding member of their new Day Habilitation Program, “Opportunities.” I even landed my first real job, at a clothing and jewelry store.
Today, I am as happy as ever. After a few years at “Opportunities,” I moved on. I am now with Consolidated Supports and Services, a program that supports me in my self-determined life. I hold a part-time job, and I even founded Brittany’s Baskets of Hope in 2014. Today, my life is so rich, and so full. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for me!
I just want to let everyone know, just because you are born with a disability, it doesn’t mean you can’t do everything you want to do!