What can I do in my local community to help the NDSC?
As a self-advocate, you don’t have to get involved on the national level to make a difference. Every time you speak out, become involved in a local organization or share your story, you help to shape your community’s perception of individuals with Down syndrome for the better.
There are many ways to become involved in your local community, but be sure to contact us or your local affiliate with new ideas or for other ways to participate.
- Speak up!
One example of self-advocates speaking up is the Emmy Awards a few years ago. A song entitled “Down Syndrome Girl” has been nominated for an award. Instead of finding it funny, self-advocates found it insulting and offensive and wrote to the president of the awards program to say so.
Letter of Protest to John Shaffner, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences:
Chairman and CEO
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
9080 Wonderland Park Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Dear Mr. Shaffner,
The undersigned members of the Self-Advocate Council of the National Down Syndrome Congress and the NDSC Youth & Adult Committee support team are disappointed and dismayed with the decision of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to honor the song “Down Syndrome Girl” with an Emmy award nomination in the category “Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics.” As a result of the nomination, this hateful song will now be broadcasted to millions of viewers furthering the myths and misconceptions that those of us who have Down syndrome are less valuable than others and deserve ridicule and abuse because of our disability. It goes without saying that the academy would not be likely to similarly honor a derogatory and degrading song entitled “African American Girl,” “Gay Girl,” or “Muslim Girl” with an Emmy Nomination. However, individuals with Down syndrome appear to be a minority group for whom there are no similar concerns and who are fair game to be ridiculed and marginalized on television.
When the organization you head honors this kind of prejudicial materials, particularly on an award show that is meant to celebrate the best of television programming, it means that those of us with developmental disabilities will have to fight even greater discrimination. What you promote impacts us very personally. We will be taunted more and treated less humanely; we will struggle to be included at school and in our communities. We will have to fight even harder for jobs.
We ask you not to air this song. Although it may be impossible for us to prevent “Down Syndrome Girl” from being honored and performed at the upcoming Emmy Award program, you have the influence to prevent this from occurring in the future. We implore you as the Chief Executive Officer of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and someone who has brought satisfaction to millions through your exceptional production design talents, to promote positive portrayals of those of us with Down syndrome on television.
We beseech you and the Academy to balance this discriminatory song with the truth about us. Accurate information and our More Alike Than Different awareness campaign can be found on the National Down Syndrome Congress website at http://www.ndsccenter.org/morealike/flash/
We are real people with real feelings trying our best to live productive lives in our communities.
The Self-Advocate Council of the NDSC
- NDSC Volunteer
- VOLUNTEER FORM INSERT
- Be a Down Syndrome News reporter
- Down Syndrome News, the print newsletter of the NDSC is always looking for stories written by self-advocates.
If you have a story that you would like to see in print, send it to:
Down Syndrome News
30 Mansell Court, Suite 108
Roswell, GA 30076 or email@example.com
Don’t forget to include your name, address, and phone number and a photo to go with your articles.
Wondering what you could write about? Think about your hopes and dreams and write about them. Maybe you would like to write about your school, your job or your volunteer position. There might be someone you would like to interview. Think about what you are good at. If you have a foolproof way to stay on top of your laundry, you could share your tips. DSN readers are interested in the same things that interest you, such as work, family, home, food, sports, pets, leadership, hobbies, travel, art, cinema, friendships, and much more.
Everybody has his or her own story, share yours! If you have Down syndrome, you qualify to be a reporter. If you need support to express your thoughts, dictate your article to a friend. You can do it!
- Thank you letter writing campaign
- From time to time we need to write thank you notes to businesses or people who donate to the NDSC. We always send thank you notes, but it would mean more coming from a self-advocate. If you have good handwriting and like to write this would be the volunteer opportunity for you!
- Self-Advocate Book Project
- What is the self-advocate book project?This project began in 2003 when self-advocate Tracy Hile introduced the idea of self-advocates presenting books on Down syndrome to the NDSC convention host community.
The project is simple. Self-advocates donate money for books that positively portray individuals with Down syndrome. They present these books to school libraries in the NDSC Convention host city.
The project accomplishes several goals set by self-advocates:
- The public sees self-advocates as productive and as giving back to the community
- Self-advocates increase disability awareness for students K-12
- Self-advocates increase leadership opportunities as they implement the project
- Schools and communities become more inclusive places for people with Down syndrome
View this awesome presentation created by the Deer Valley Unified School District after we presented books to them at our Convention in Phoenix in 2015.
National Down Syndrome Book Presentation
We are always looking for books that positively portray people with Down syndrome. Please let the NDSC know when you find one! Books submitted will be evaluated as to appropriateness of appearance, age level, content and quality of writing.
- How can I help?During online convention registration, check the box to have $1 or more added to your registration fee to be donated to the Self-Advocate Book Project.
Assist your self-advocate in generously donating to the project by sending a check to NDSC. This will enable us to purchase more books.
Your local organization can donate a “bundle” of all the books listed below for a donation of $100. You might do this by having a special fundraiser to honor a self-advocate or educator in your community and donating this bundle in their name.
Send check (made payable to NDSC) to NDSC Center 30 Mansell Court, Suite 108, Roswell, GA 30076. Please put “Book Project” on the memo line. If you wish to make your donation in honor or memory of someone, please include instructions so that we can insert a bookplate.
- 2016 Book Project List
ABC Building Blocks for Growing Up with Down Syndrome by self-advocate Meredith Martin, outlines some of the key components that led her to independent living.
Donovan and the Big Hole by Nancy Lambert Davenport – This delightful fiction Texas adventure is narrated by fourteen year old Donovan who happens to have Down syndrome. He and his neighborhood friends don’t ask for trouble, but manage to find it at every turn.
Sam’s Top Secret Journal (3 Book Series) by Sean Adelman – This is a set of three delightful books about the adventures of Sam, a middle school girl with Down syndrome. They solve mysteries, have adventures, and deal with the world and its conflicts. Each book has a different setting that allows the plots to be unique and fresh.
The Little King and His Marshmallow Kingdom by Louis Rotella III – This beautiful book encourages children to be themselves with confidence, and challenge pressures to conform.
Why Are You Looking At Me? by Lisa Tompkins – A child with Down syndrome only wants to be a friend and have friends. She wants them to learn that she has likes and dislikes, not unlike theirs, and as a result, embrace their relationship.2016 Book Project
- What is the self-advocate book project?
- NDSC Speaker's Bureau
The NDSC Self-advocate Speakers Bureau has been established to connect self-advocate speakers to public forums in which they can offer a positive voice of continuing education, motivation, inspiration and disability awareness. Each member of the Speakers Bureau tells a unique story, sharing his and her experiences and wisdom.
Interested in being a speaker?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your biography and link to video (if available).
Have a member of the NDSC Self-Advocate Speaker’s Bureau at your event
The NDSC Self-Advocate Speakers Bureau was established to connect self-advocate speakers to public forums in which they can offer a positive voice of continuing education, motivation, inspiration and disability awareness. Each member of the Speakers Bureau tells a unique story, sharing his or her experiences and wisdom. If you are interested in having a self-advocate speak to your group or organization, please preview the videos available below, select a speaker and, when you have made a selection, contact the speaker directly via the email address provided.
The NDSC is posting this list of self-advocate speakers for informational purposes only. Interested parties should contact self-advocates directly via the link provided regarding any proposed engagement. Moreover, it should be emphasized that the views expressed by a self-advocate are his or her personal views and not necessarily the views of the NDSC. The NDSC disclaims any responsibility for, or association with, the views expressed by a self-advocate.
See more information on our Speaker’s Bureau members below:
- NDSC Self-Advocate Speaker’s Bureau Bios
- Austin – Dallas, TX
After attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, Austin Davenport graduated in 1998 from Lake Highlands High School in Richardson Independent School District in Dallas, Texas where he was active in theater, choir, as well as visual arts. He attended Richland College, also in Dallas, where he continued his study of theater. Austin has performed in over twenty plays in the area. He has spoken encouragement as a self-advocate to many groups around the country and has served on the boards of the National Down Syndrome Congress and the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas. He currently serves on the Program Advisory Committee at Special Care and Career Services which provides supported employment and serves on the Self-Advocate Council of the National Down Syndrome Congress.
Austin loves his church where he is active with the singles group and sings in the choir. Austin works full time at the law offices of Baker Botts in Dallas and lives on his own in a duplex which is a block from his church, his bank, Blockbuster, the grocery store, several restaurants, and Marble Slab.
Work Experience in Dallas TX
Baker Botts law firm (Aug 2007 to present)
Delivers mail to six floors of offices at least twice a day
DocuCorp International, (2000 to Aug 2007)
(Company was bought by Skywire and moved out of the county)
Responsible for distribution of mail to 200+ employees
Prepare, address, and mail packages of software to customers
Input data of completed orders
Braum’s Ice Cream Store, 1998 to 2000 (part-time)
Responsible for completing food orders of various ice cream dishes and beverages
Greeted all customers and conducted customer area clean up
Richland College, 1998-2000
Lake Highland High School, Graduated 1998
Serves on Program Advisory Committee at Special Care and Career Services
Serves on National Down Syndrome Congress Self-Advocate Council
Served on Board of Trustees of the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas 2004
Served on Board of Trustees of the National Down Syndrome Congress 2001-2003
Awards and Accomplishments
Chosen as Outstanding Dallas Self-Advocate, Dallas Mayor’s Committee, 2003
Selected by peers to be Emcee for LHHS Senior Show, 1998
Attained Eagle Scout rank, 1996
Skills and Interests
Actor: Performed in over 20 plays and musicals in the greater Dallas community
Speaker: Addressed large audiences at numerous organizations across the country about Down syndrome including keynote speaker twice at the National Down Syndrome Congress and once at the annual meeting of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida. He was keynote speaker at the Richardson Independent School District Employer Recognition Luncheon for employers of people with disabilities.
Artist: Participated in one-man art show at Borders Books 2001, sold numerous commissioned prints to individual buyers and an Atlanta-based company, as well as designed commissioned seasonal greeting cards for several organizations
Enjoys dancing and racquetball
Uses Quicken to record personal finances
- Chris – Brick, NJ
Chris Devlin was born in New York on February 11, 1967. He spent his first years attending the Shield of David School in the Bronx. When he moved to New Jersey, he attended Fairlawn Schools and graduated from Bridgewater High School. He presently lives in his own apartment, and he works at Pleasant Plains. He has two brothers, Brendan and Colin, who live in Hoboken. Colin married Annie last November, and Chris was co-best man. His Mom, Eileen, lives in Sea Girt; his Dad, John, died in 1999.
Chris enjoys music and videos. He has an extensive collection. Presently he is a member of Spotlighters, an acting group that meets each week. They present a show every year in the spring.
In 1999 Chris starred in a Hallmark commercial called “Dave’s Place”. The commercial was seen on national television.
Chris went to Las Vegas to appear in a film called YONKERS JOE. “A scam artist has his plans suddenly interrupted when he must take over the care of his son who has Down syndrome.” ( www.hollywood.com/movie/Yonkers_Joe )
Chris also spent two weeks in West Virginia on the set of a short film by NYU graduate student, Kim Spurlock, entitled ROYGBIV. Early rushes of this film can be seen at www.myspace.com/roygbivmovie
Chris loves the time he spends with buddies at National Down Syndrome Congress conferences. He always plays an active role; in fact, in the past he has been a board member.
- Christi – Walnut Creek, CA
Confident and poised, Christi Hockel shares the “Ups and Downs” of her life with candor and humor.
Punctuated by her PowerPoint presentation, Christi outlines the successes as well as the disappointments she has encountered, first and foremost as a human, and secondly, as a young woman with extra challenges. Christi makes it very clear that people who have Down syndrome can enjoy full and meaningful lives, and ought not be considered disposable by society. Her joy in life is unmistakable.
- Jenny – Columbus, OH
Jennifer Cunningham is a 31 year old self-advocate from Columbus, Ohio. Jenny just bought and moved into her own condo. In grade school, Jenny was voted into the Hall of Fame. From there she was recognized by the state of Ohio for self-determination, competed on her high school gymnastics team, ran the Olympic torch, and landed a part in a Stephen King mini series, Kingdom Hospital – all with a lot of perseverance, determination, and a little luck.
Jennifer has spoken at the National Down Syndrome Convention, at a local graduation, and at local businesses about Down syndrome awareness. She contributed to Dr. Pueschel’s book Adults with Down Syndrome.
- Jeremy – N. Myrtle Beach, SC
Jeremy Williams has a story to tell…
He has been a Special Olympian and competed in eight sports for eighteen years and also at the 1995 World Games in gymnastics. He works at Kroger and is a fourth degree Knight of Columbus. He served three years on the National Down Syndrome Congress Board of Directors and is on the Self-Advocate Council. He loves to travel, to work out in the gym and be at the beach, where he lives. He is also a proud uncle to Finn and Graedy.
Jeremy will come to tell your group about becoming a self-advocate, his road to literacy and his life story. There will be no fee except for travel and expenses for him and his mother.
- Laurie – Memphis, TNMy name is Laurie Hobson. I am 23 years old. I was included in regular classes since I was in pre-school. I love to advocate for people with Down syndrome. I am serving on the board of the NDSC. I love it. I have a boyfriend named Kenny. I work at Kroger. I am planning to attend a school out of town and stay in the dorm. I like to present to groups and classes and tell people about the abilities of people who have Down syndrome.
- Lee – Kansas City, MO
Lee graduated from Graceland University in Iowa in 2000 with a B.A. degree in Recreation and a minor in Theatre. Since that time, he has been living independently and pursuing a career that utilizes his education and experience. Presently, he is a fitness attendant at Sylvester Powell Community Center in Mission, KS and has been certified as a personal trainer. Wednesdays are one of his favorite days because he teaches an exercise class for people with disabilities called “Fitness with Lee.” He is also an intern at the Kauffman Foundation where he works in the legal department.
Lee is a former board member of the NDSC and currently serves on the Self-Advocate Council. In 1997, he received the Outstanding Citizen Award given by National Down Syndrome Congress in recognition of his actions in creating a positive public awareness through work as a leader and role model.
In 2003, he was asked to be a keynote speaker at the NDSC National Convention and spoke to a group of 1400 attendees on setting and achieving goals. Since that time, he has traveled to more than ten states to present at many state and local conferences, and the feedback has been outstanding.
Everyone, whether they have a disability or not, has the right to have their very own dreams. Dreams let you explore the future without being tied to what is reasonable or expected. They let you be free to imagine what you want and what is important to you. But at some point, it is important to turn your most important dreams into the reality of actually living those dreams. Goals and planning can get you there. The purpose of Lee’s speech is to use his experience as both a person with dreams and a person with Down syndrome to explain the benefits of setting goals and not letting words like “reasonable expectations” stand in the way. Lee will use his experience to give you some examples of how to do this.
To check Lee’s availability and learn more about his presentation, call 501-206-4915 or send an email to email@example.com.
- Lindsey Rose – Colorado Springs, COAge: 23
Parent/Support name: Daina Beck (Mom)
P.O. Box 1333
Colorado Springs, CO 80901
Bio: Lindsey Rose Roy – Self-Advocate
Business Owner: www.lindseymadeoriginals.com
College Student: University of Colorado (Past 4 years)
WATCH more here:
- Melissa – Owings Mills, MD
Hi! My name is Melissa Silverman. I am 25 years old and live in Owings Mills, Maryland.
I graduated from high school in June 2001 with a full academic diploma from the State of Maryland. I attended 2 years at the Community College of Baltimore County where I earned a 90-hour child care certification. I am a teacher’s aide in a pre-school where I work with 3 and 4 year old children.
I am a member of the Chesapeake Down Syndrome Parent Group and the “Circle of Friends” (“the girls club”). The “Circle of Friends”, along with the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Amy Newhall, started the Brightside Project in the spring of 2006. The Brightside Project is a group of young adults with Down syndrome who mentor younger people, also with Down syndrome.
I enjoy speaking to various groups such as parents, teachers, future teachers, graduate and high school students and religious groups about Down syndrome. My speeches always include what terrific possibilities there are for people with Down syndrome, and I use myself as a positive example. In addition to this, I always make magic a part of my presentation because my dad and I perform professionally all over the country.
- Meredith – Neligh, NE
Meredith Martin, is a self-advocate from the Northeast Nebraska community of Neligh. She enjoys sharing her story of growing up in a small community, setting goals, working with the school district to try new programs and establishing an independent living experience.
She has served on the National Down Syndrome Congress Board of Directors. Meredith’s speaking experiences began in high school with Family Consumer Community Leaders of America competitions. She has given workshops, been on panels and given the welcome address at the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention in Philadelphia. In addition to her NDSC experiences, she has presented to college classes, dorm groups and groups of special education providers.
Meredith is an avid kick boxer and also enjoys Pilates and dancing.
Meredith lives by the S.T.A.R. philosophy:
S–Surround yourself with positive supportive people;
T–Teach others about your disability (or abilities);
A–Always advocate for yourself and others;
R–Reach for your North Star!
- Tracy – Murfreesboro, AR
Hello, my name is Tracy Hile. I am OLD, but I don’t feel or look old (they say). I was born in 1968 in Baltimore, MD. I have lived (besides Maryland), in Colorado, Kansas and Texas before moving to Arkansas in 2008. I worked as a teacher’s assistant for 19 years in the Houston, TX area. I worked in three different public school districts. I loved my job and the students so much. The staff was wonderful to me– I miss my coworkers, but we call and email each other often.
It was a big change to move from a huge city to a very small town, but I am enjoying it very much. It is really nice and I am meeting many new friends now. I have a new job as a breakfast hostess at the Queen of Diamonds Inn. If that sounds funny to you, it is because the only diamond mine in North America is here in Murfreesboro, AR: Crater of Diamond State Park. My co-workers are wonderful to me, too. The motel is very nice, and the breakfast is served in a Victorian-style home. I am living by myself in my own house. It is the house my Dad grew up in, but it has been ‘updated’ and is ‘just precious’!
I have my own computer, send emails and check the weather.
These are some of my activities:
joined a bible study, and choir too.
go to baby showers and wedding showers.
got a new dog: Charlie– who loves to go for walks.
decorating for Christmas, fall, spring, and all of the patriotic holidays
pick up my own mail, go to bank, and pay my bills
learning to cook in my crockpot, as well as the microwave
do my own grocery shopping and cleaning
pick out and buy my own clothes, gifts, household items
enjoy listening to music
doing word search
working out with a DVD
relaxing in the porch swing, reading a good book!
My NDSC friends and the conventions are what I look forward to each year!
- Tony – New Iberia, LAHi, my name is Tony Piontek. I was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico on January 16, 1974, but my family relocated to New Iberia, Louisiana when I was seven years old, and I now live with my parents there and I’m a Cajun’. We are a big family. I have four older brothers and two older sisters. Along with my parents, they have always been my models, teachers and supporters.
My high school curriculum was as a combination student, regular/special ed . I was a Peer Tutor and active in the Library Club. I graduated from New Iberia Senior High in 1994. Our 20th reunion will be 2014.
I have worked at our Main Library, fine restaurants and in catering. I have worked for Lowe’s Home Improvement for several years. My job is in Customer Service, Safety, and Returns. I’m in training now and working on a level II Paint test right now.
Scouting is a major part of my life. I am an Eagle Scout and continue to help a troop as their Assistant Scoutmaster. I still strive to be an example and to inspire the young boys to live the Scout values. I teach at the University of Scouting and recently helped develop a program for adults wanting to charter troops for boys with special needs. To solve any communication problems, I took sign language classes and earned my Interpreter Strip at the Diocese Deaf Action Center.
Every year I train and compete in Special Olympics Aquatics even at International Games. This will be my twenty-third year and I’m excited about it, as always. My hope now is to renew my Athlete as Officials requirements as a Stroke & Turn and Timer or to compete – either way is GREAT for me. Who knows this could be swimming again or maybe tennis or cycling? “Pray and WISH me the best.”
I often speak to groups about perseverance and reaching goals. I really hope my message helps others to follow their dreams.
I am on the Advisory Board for the Down Syndrome Association of Acadiana as their Self-Advocate. For their special events, I’ve been everything from Santa Claus to photographer to being on T.V. promoting fundraisers. As a new NDSC Board member, I’ve been thinking of ways to highlight DS awareness on a National level and would like to research what it would take to have a DS Awareness U.S. Postal Stamp. I’ll keep you “posted.”
Although I have a big family, my six siblings live away. and I still enjoy being home with my parents. This is “grand central station”, you know! I plan on living on my own some day. They always seem to live in exciting places, so I’ve been able to travel with family to Italy, France, Corsica, Poland, Germany, Austria, Mexico and many other cities in the U.S. over the years.
Lastly, I keep myself busy in my free time and these are the things I do:
Youth ministry, adult retreats, alter serving, school parade mascot (I’m a manda), flower bed ministry
St. Francis Diner, Trash bash, hurricane relief, public speaking to schools and civic organizations
Competitive swimming, (attended two International Games 1995 new Haven, CT as Stroke & Turn and Timer Judge, 1999 Raleigh Durham, NC as an official athlete swimmer). Cyclist. Athlete As Official and Global Messenger only for our State of Louisiana to attend the World Summer Games.
Down Syndrome Association of Acadiana:
Local Self-Advocate, Advisory Board, Past Acadiana Board of Director, SAC member, Self-Advocate Leadership Council, International Coalition For Life, (IDSC) Self-Advocate interpreter to communicate with people who are hearing impaired to give them a voice.
Catholic Committee on Scouting Religious Awards received:
2011 William J. McGoffen Award (received on October 12, 2011)
2010 St. George Award
2009 Bronze Pelican Award
2008 Scouting Scroll of honor
- Karen – Portland, ORFrom the moment she was born, Karen Gaffney began an incredible journey that continues today. She is the President of a non-profit organization dedicated to championing the journey to full inclusion in families, schools, the workplace and the community for people with developmental disabilities. She is doing this by creating awareness and calling attention to the tremendous capabilities of people with disabilities. Karen accomplishes this through presentations and workshops delivered all over the country. One of the workshops Karen presents is on the importance of physical fitness and how to set up a regular fitness plan. She has also started a program that she calls “The Friends First Network ™” in schools around the Portland area. She hopes to take this program nationwide. Karen graduated from St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon and earned a two-year Associates of Science degree from Portland Community College. She successfully swam the English Channel as part of a six-person relay team. And just last year, she accomplished her biggest swimming challenge yet….she swam 9-miles across Lake Tahoe in 59-degree water to raise money for the National Down Syndrome Congress and to show the world that people with Down syndrome are more alike, rather than different, from everyone else. Karen travels the country speaking to a wide range of audiences about overcoming limitations and about what can be accomplished with positive expectations. Karen tackles any challenge she faces with determination and commitment, knowing she has limits, but not allowing them to limit her drive to succeed. Oh, and by the way…. Karen Gaffney has Down syndrome.
Karen has presented across the United States and around the world including in the United Kingdom and in Singapore. Her most recent presentations were in Sacramento, CA with People First, Albany, NY at the Down Syndrome Aim High Resource center conference, as well as in Philadelphia, PA at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Karen’s primary presentation topics include speeches and workshops addressing overcoming limitations, “re-writing the data” concerning developmental disabilities, importance of friendships, transitioning, importance of physical fitness for people with disabilities, and leadership skills for self-advocates.
- Craig – Luling, LACraig Blackburn is a 2000 graduate of Hahnville High School. Craig graduated with a regular high school diploma, meeting the same and all requirements as his classmates and never failing a grade or a class.
He is also a peer and self-advocate who has met with representatives both on the state and national levels advocating for individuals with disabilities on education and life issues and has represented Down Syndrome Association of Greater New Orleans at six National Down Syndrome Congress conferences. Craig is pursuing a career as a motivational speaker and delivers a powerful message which results in both laughter and tears for his audience. Craig sits on numerous boards and advisory committees and is the recipient of many national awards as a result of his initiatives in behalf of individuals with disabilities.
Craig is the Best Buddies Director for individuals with Special Needs, Tulane chapter in New Orleans and participated in the Best Buddies Leadership Conference in Indiana last summer. Craig was invited to speak at the BB International Staff convention in Miami last January.
Craig’s speech is given from his own perspective as a person with Down syndrome and his message leaves his audience feeling empowered and full of hope. Please don’t miss a chance to hear this dynamic speaker give his perspective on having Down syndrome and what ALL people can accomplish.
- Mark – Orange Park, FLGrowing up in Orange Park, Florida, Mark Gilmore attended Orange Park Middle School and High School with his sister. While taking Special Education classes, Mark made room for the Drama club and starred as Ward Cleaver in the school’s production of Leave it to Beaver. Mark graduated with a special diploma in 1987 and started on his career path by working for the nonprofit agency, Challenge Enterprises through the AbilityOne Program.
For the past 20 years at Challenge Enterprises, Mark has continued to strive and challenge himself. He has had many different jobs including: recycling and landscaping at the local Naval Air Station and working on a tree farm in Green Cove Springs, Florida. In 2003, Mark started his current position as a custodian at the Bryan Simpson Federal Courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida. For the past six years, he has maintained his duties washing windows, vacuuming and dusting the judges’ chambers. He has many friends at work and that’s his favorite part of his job. Because of his steady employment with Challenge Enterprises, Mark is a homeowner. His job is very important because he can earn his own money and pay his bills.
Mark has received numerous trophies in the Special Olympics Bowling Competition and he has been active in Special Olympics for 30 years. He is a member of the Input Council, which gives him the opportunity to tell others about participating in the Special Olympics.
Mark’s speech is given from his own perspective as a person with Down syndrome. His message tells his life story and how his employment with the AbilityOne Program has changed his life. Mark has spoken at the NISH North Central Region NCWC in Chicago, Illinois, the NCMA Jacksonville Chapter meeting in Jacksonville, Florida and the NISH South Region NCWC in Jacksonville, Florida.
For more information, watch my video:
- Heather – Oklahoma City, OKGood morning! I am Heather Hancock. I am a peer and self-advocate and motivational speaker. I have Down syndrome, but my family and myself have always believed that was a challenge and not an obstacle in my life.
Believe in your dreams and they may come true; believe in yourself and they will come true!
Today, I will share my story with you and you will see how believing has made a difference in my life and CAN in yours, too!
My parents had to start believing immediately because I was literally taken from my mom’s arms and flown to another hospital for surgery. The first challenge for my parents came on the day I was born and the doctor delivered not only me, but the message that I was very sick. Even when the doctors weren’t sure that I would make it, my parents believed. No way was their newborn baby going to be taken from them. As I listen to them tell the story today, I KNOW that their prayers and belief are what made a difference.
- Dusty – San Rafael, CAusty Dutton, 33, is a talented and experienced entertainer. She has Down syndrome and uses her unique sense of humor to bring her hand puppets to life. She has formal training in entertainment for young children and never fails to bring smiles to their faces. She is available to perform puppet shows at parties and events, large and small.
Dusty is a professional puppeteer and CEO of her own microenterprise, Dusty’s Puppets. She enjoys making presentations to people with disabilities, their families, and professionals about how her business came to be. She talks about all the steps she took to get started, including organizing meetings of her Circle of Support to help her think about her dreams and her future, taking college classes in children’s theater and business, doing a Feasibility Study, trying out her idea, meeting with a benefits planner, writing a Business Plan, applying for a PASS plan for startup funds, working with a service provider, lining up paid helpers and volunteers, managing and scheduling, and growing the business for the future. All the steps are described and colorfully illustrated in PowerPoint presentations. Dusty has several versions, in various degrees of detail and can make presentations which last from 15 minutes up to an hour. She likes to end with a short puppet show! (See a short example at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7Tg-KPps14)
Dusty grew up in Santa Monica, CA and attended McKinley Elementary, Lincoln Middle School, and Santa Monica High School. Her family members advocated for inclusion, so Dusty spent much of her time in general classes. She especially enjoyed music classes and a child care class, at which she performed puppet shows and read stories to the babies. She then attended the College of Marin where she took many classes in drama, music, dance, art and business. She then joined a day program and was hired to do a part-time job at a hotel. In 2006, she started her own business, Dusty’s Puppets. She lives with a housemate/Supported Living coordinator and her young daughter.
Dusty is a recipient of the Mary Falvey Outstanding Young Person Award, presented by Cal TASH. She has been elected twice to the Board of Directors of Cal TASH, and belongs to a local Lions Club. Dusty especially likes volunteering for the Ross Valley Players, a local little theater group.
Dusty has presented at Cal TASH conferences and summer institutes several times over the last 15 years, on the following subjects: person-centered planning, going to college, supported living, and starting your own business. She has also presented for the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disability Services, the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities, the California Association of Regional Center Agencies “New Day” Conference, the Supported Life Institute’s Supported Life Conference, the Chinese Parents of East L.A., the Family Resource Center/Family Empowerment Center of West L.A., Sempre Amigas, the Choices Conference of the Stockton area, the Reinventing Quality conferences in San Diego and Baltimore, Disability Rights CA (PAI), Virginia Commonwealth University’s T-TAP web casts, San Francisco State University, and others.
- Christopher – Napa, CA
I started with public speaking until I became a Self-Advocate, I started advocating, lobbying with public officials, gave speeches, did conference workshops, conference planning when I continued on with my dream of policy-making, performing arts for a stronger message in life, volunteer, work. I lived with my parent advocates who I became their story I been raised with family support, higher standards that prepared me for life, work, where I am today. Policy-Making, Music is one of my strengths in keeping a dream I can relate to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speeches, how he made policies, helped our nation. We should be thankful of our families providing us support to being productive members of society, living with assisted or independent living for us Self-Advocates to carry our dreams, always be heard, became my interest, strength.
- Emmanuel – Grafton, IL
I am 18 years old and my great story is being written and my accomplishments and successes are to come.
I am a self-advocate speaker; I like giving presentations. For more information, see my Facebook page.
- Rebecca – Nampa, IDHello, my name is Rebecca Page. I was born in Boise, Idaho on November 28, 1989 and raised in Idaho, but recently moved to Alpine, Texas with my mom. I love Texas and have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins here. I love horses, rodeos, and cowboys!
I grew up in a big homeschool family with two brothers, two sisters and one foster brother with Down syndrome. We had a lot of fun. Now, we are all grown up and moved out from our parents – even me! We all have dreams that we follow.
I live in my own trailer on my mom’s property and I love being independent! I have a couple of friends who help me. I use the Consumer Direct Service program and I am Self-Directed. I am livin my dream.
I have my own business called “Livin My Dreams.” I have an art studio and co-op in downtown Alpine. We have four artists who make and sell art with me. I work there doing my art every day. I am a Self-Advocate Speaker and I travel with my mom all over Texas to talk about Livin My Dreams and Self Determination. I have spoken to 1200 people at a Buddy Walk! I love speaking! I am also a Health Coach. I lost 48 pounds 3 years ago and I help people to lose weight. I use Isagenix products which helps me be healthy and smart! I also love Zumba and Tae Bo. I am Livin My Dreams! My website is www.livinmydreams.com
I used to be on the board of the Treasure Valley Down Syndrome Association in Idaho as a self-advocate speaker and the leader of the adult group. Here in Texas, I am helping to start a new Down syndrome support group in West Texas, and I am on the board of the Gathering Place, a community center for people with disabilities where I am in charge of the social events. I love helping people to live their dreams.
One of my dreams is to attend college. In Idaho, I attended iDream classes at College of Western Idaho. I took Spanish, Art, Drama, and Sign Language. I would like to attend classes through the Odessa Community College next year, and someday, I would like to attend the college like University of New Mexico. I am currently taking art classes in Alpine.
Some of my accomplishments include: A silver medal in Downhill skiing in the Idaho Special Olympics, a Green belt in Kenpo Karate and most recently, I earned the Gold Congressional Medal of Honor. After going to Washington to receive my medal, I was invited to the Texas statehouse by Congressman Pete Sessions and given a special proclamation for my work in Alpine.
- Austin – Dallas, TX
- NDSC Self-Advocate Speaker’s Bureau Bios