My Childhood Friend with Down Syndrome: A Story of Friendship, Inclusion, and Inspiration.

articles Mar 23, 2023

(Photo 251270419 © Pojoslaw |

With World Down Syndrome Day this week, I wanted to share a personal story that has shaped my life. It's about my childhood friend Monica, who had Down Syndrome.

A story about friendship, inclusion and inspiration.

I met Monica when I was around 6 or 7 years old. I remember the first day she entered our classroom - she was the "new kid". Even though my friends and I had all been in school together for a few years, she started later than us. I noticed she was different, and our teacher was particularly loving and gentle with her. At that moment, I knew we were supposed to be particularly kind to her, so I followed suit.

I noticed that Monica spoke and walked differently than the rest of us, but at the time, nobody explained why. I was intrigued by her and found myself drawn to her. She even showed me a trick that she could do that nobody else could - touch the tip of her nose with her tongue! I remember trying to copy her, but I never could do it. We were in school together for years, and the gentleness towards her remained.

One day during a PE class, the teacher organised a race. I was never good at sports, so I would have been one of the kids to get to the end last. We all finished the race, but Monica was still running slowly. We all gathered at the finish line, shouting her name and clapping our hands to encourage her to keep running. She started laughing and could barely run, but the more she laughed, the louder we got. When she finally reached the end line, we welcomed her with a big cheer as if she had come first!

I don't remember when I first learned that Monica had Down syndrome, but our friendship profoundly impacted my life. In college, I never thought of working in special education. Instead, I worked in a wildlife park and was interested in environmental education. However, when I moved to Ireland, I received a job offer to work in early intervention with children with Down syndrome. I thought of Monica immediately, who had passed on a few years prior, and without hesitation, I said yes

That was 21 years ago.

Since then, I have worked with hundreds of children with Down syndrome and their families. It's a job that brings me so much joy; every one of those little faces has taught me so much about life and love. Today, I want to join World Down Syndrome Day celebrations and celebrate people with Down syndrome worldwide, especially those who have been part of my life.

Let's spread awareness and embrace inclusion!

I'd love to hear your comments below.

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