Down syndrome dancer is headed to Disney World

Thalia Arvelaez, a teenager with Down syndrome, is at a dance camp in Tampa this week. In mid-July, she’ll be at Disney World, dancing for the National Down Syndrome Congress. In November, she heads to Argentina to dance and raise Down syndrome awareness. Thalia’s teacher says she is a joy to watch. Her mother says Thalia loves applause — and when people give her flowers!

Tampa, Florida – Among the tapping toes at this summer camp class at the Patel Conservatory, you’ll find a pair of fancy feet belonging to Thalia Arbelaez. She loves to dance-all types.

“I like ballet, hip-hop, jazz, tap,” Thalia starts ticking off the list.

Thalia knows she looks a bit different than her classmates and she refers to herself as “special”. The 17-year-old has Down syndrome, a genetic condition that changes a child’s development, and she was born with a host of health problems.

Alicia Arbelaez recalls what doctors told her shortly after her daughter’s birth. “The doctor come to tell me, ‘this child is never going to walk.’”

But walk Thalia did and dance lessons at age 2 soon followed.

via Down syndrome dancer builds bridges with her feet | Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota, FL | WTSP.com 10 Connects.

Bicycling with special needs: Lose the Training Wheels Camp

TREXLERTOWN, Pa. — Learning how to ride a bike can be especially challenging for kids with special needs.

But the Eastern Pennsylvania Down Syndrome Center is trying to change that.

This year the group hosted a volunteer-driven camp to help children “lose the training wheels.”

via Anchors Away: Lose The Training Wheels – News Story – WFMZ Allentown.

SafetyNet available in Marshfield, Mass., to find people with autism, Alzheimer’s who wander

Marshfield —With training having been completed June 22, the Marshfield Police Department has officially added Safety Net to its public safety arsenal.

The program, which has been implemented by police and fire departments nationwide, will provide Marshfield officials the tools they need to swiftly track down and rescue those who have wandered from their caregivers.

“People who want to sign up can go online with Safety Net or come here,” said veteran Marshfield police officer Ralph Poland, who on a recent afternoon behind the police station learned first-hand — along with several other officers and firefighters — how to use the advanced tracking equipment.

Poland, who is helping to implement the program, said police and fire officials know that it only takes a moment for a resident with Alzheimer’s disease, autism or any other condition that may predispose them to do so to wander off or disappear. In North America alone, according to Safety Net figures, more than 5.8 million people have Alzheimer’s disease, and the majority may have a tendency to wander.

via Police, fire officers complete SafetyNet training – Marshfield, MA – Marshfield Mariner.

Special Needs: Taking the fear out of doctors’ visits

Nobody looks forward to a dentist’s drill or giving a blood sample. But for people with special needs, these routine visits can be a cause for special terror. Often people with intellectual disabilities or autism get sedated or restrained so that they’ll stay still for a medical test. One Delaware mother came up with a better way.

via Taking the fear out of doctors’ visits | WHYY News and Information | WHYY.

Boy with autism, Down syndrome will throw first pitch at Red Sox game

A Maine boy with autism and Down syndrome will throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park in Boston Tuesday, disability awareness night. Go Jackson! (And go Red Sox!)

Jackson Hickey will be on the mound Tuesday night at Fenway Park, not as a replacement for the battered Red Sox staff but to throw out the first pitch.

The 11-year-old from West Gardiner will be center stage on disability awareness night prior to Boston’s game against Tampa Bay. Jackson’s mother, Jayne, entered her son’s name into a contest promoted by Exceptional Parents Magazine and got a response within 24 hours.

“I filled out (a form) and I saw the Red Sox were an option,” she said. “I said ‘I’d really like to make his dream come true.’ ”

The magazine honors a special family each year and selected the Hickeys for their compelling story.

via West Gardiner boy to throw out 1st pitch at Fenway | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME.

Program could smooth a hard road to college for student with Down syndrome

A new program in Missouri is aimed at helping students with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities experience college and build skills that will take them from home to independence and employment.  It’s called THRIVE – for Transportation, Health, Responsibility, Independence, Vocation, Education. Read this Kansas City Star story about a possible participant in the THRIVE program.

Ask Mary Warm about her hope for her future, and she cocks her head. The bushy ponytail swings, the smile spreads across her face.

“I love kids, being around kids and hanging out with them, so I want to be a teacher,” said Warm, 18, a junior at Archbishop O’Hara High School in Kansas City.

For most teens Warm’s age, her goal is fairly easily reached with good grades in high school and four years of hard work in college. But for Warm, who has Down syndrome, a chromosomal disorder resulting in cognitive disabilities, it’s not as easy.

But the University of Central Missouri’s THRIVE program, which starts this fall, could well be a big step toward making it easier after she graduates from O’Hara.

via Program could smooth a hard road to college for student with Down syndrome – KansasCity.com.

Down syndrome stories shared on “My Great Story”

The National Down Syndrome Society has a fantastic new web feature, My Great Story, that tells the stories of some of the 400,000 people with Down syndrome living in the U.S. – often in their own words. There’s a place on the site for people to continue to share more great stories. Here’s the beginning of one of the stories, written by Sara Wolff of Pennsylvania:

Sara Wolff, The Public Speaker

Moscow, PA

My name is Sara Wolff. I am 24 years old and My Great Story is about my Public Speaking.

I’d first like to share a little bit about myself with you. I definitely have something unique about me—and that is an extra 21st chromosome, called Down syndrome… which, by the way, has never stopped me from doing anything!

I don’t think of myself as having “DOWN” syndrome but “UP” syndrome because I am an upbeat and positive person. I have been raised with the motto “Never” say “Never” and the words “I can’t” don’t exist.

via National Down Syndrome Society – Sara Wolff, The Public Speaker.

Golf for young adults with Down syndrome

Here’s a post about a golf class for young adults with Down syndrome at a resort in Spain.

La Manga Club’s first golf course for youngsters from the ASIDO association recently came to an end with a Par 47 tournament and prize giving hosted by Golf Pro and Course Tutor, Mark Hook.

Every Thursday afternoon since last October, La Manga Club Golf Academy has been filled with young people eager to learn all the secrets and benefits of golf. A total of 10 students attended the course, during which they have worked on golf skills such as the swing, stance and build-up routine. The young golfers have not just improved their technical skills, but have also worked on concentration and focus, memory skills and psychological aspects such as self-esteem and social skills.

via Golf course for young people with Downs Syndrome finishes at La Manga Club | La Manga Club Official Blog for La Manga Resort in Murcia, Spain with Golf Holidays, 5 star hotel, tennis breaks, Spa La Manga Club.

Surfing in the Special Olympics?

In waist-deep water off Cocoa Beach, 32-year-old Dawn Blanchard is taking only the second surfing lesson of her life, yet she manages to stand, however briefly, on nearly every wave she catches. And each time she does, she flashes a double thumbs-up, beams joyously and announces, “I did it! I did it!”

This continues for two hours. Yet no one — not the surf instructors, not the considerable crowd of earnest spectators on the beach, certainly not Blanchard herself — seems to weary.

“It’s awesome,” said Deb Spence, a Special Olympics swim coach who cheers from the beach. “She’s actually doing a lot better than I did when I started.”

Blanchard is one of Spence’s Special Olympics swimmers, and this surf lesson is part of a grand experiment to try to introduce surfing as a Special Olympics sport. It’s a collaboration between Cocoa Beach’s iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop, which is picking up the tab, and Special Olympics Florida. The program launched a week ago with eight athletes, ages 18 to 43. All of them have intellectual disabilities, from Down syndrome to autism.

via Surfing in the Special Olympics? The seeds are being planted – OrlandoSentinel.com.

Students cast nearly unanimous vote for Prom Queen with Down syndrome

oaprom01Colleen Fisher just may be the most popular Prom Queen ever selected at Oakfield-Alabama High School.

In a landslide of ballot votes, the 18-year-old garnered all but about two votes to be crowned at the junior/senior prom held at Stafford Country Club.

She is a graduating senior, very well liked, who happens to have Down syndrome.

“She is a wonderful young girl,” said High School Principle Lynn Muscarella.

via O-A casts nearly unanimous vote for Prom Queen with Down syndrome | The Batavian.