Down Syndrome Awareness: Spotlight on Gretchen

Down Syndrome Awareness

For Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we are featuring one of our Voice and Vision employees, Gretchen, and her mother Judy.  Gretchen is a team member of our IM4Q program. Along with her team leader, she interviews individuals with disabilities about their quality of life.   While Gretchen and I have not worked together, we met at one of the Voice and Vision, Inc Christmas parties.  She was impeccably dressed, cheerful, and exuded positive energy.   I couldn’t help but smile in her presence.

I  hope you enjoy getting to know Gretchen and Judy as much as I did!

Gretchen

Tell me a little about your life with Down Syndrome. I have a very happy life. I enjoy Special Olympics, friends and family, and my three jobs.

Tell us about your other two jobs. I do public speaking for Self Advocates United as 1.   I help people with disabilities and their parents by talking about how to speak up, find your vision, and how to find a job.  I share my story to encourage them.  

I also volunteer at the Community at Rockhill.   I bus tables and set them for lunch.  I also look around to see who needs help, usually it’s in the kitchen.  I do other things but that’s my main job.  I also interact with the residents. 

What are some of the challenges? Not being able to drive and go places on my own.

What are your strengths? I take pride in how I look. I’m interested in learning new things. I have good communication skills and a good attitude.

What are some of your interests, hobbies, or passions? Yoga, foodie, sports, dancing, music, and exercise.

Favorite food?  Grilled octopus

Favorite sport? Football. [She’s an Eagles fan!]

What would you like others to know about Down Syndrome?  You can have a great productive life! 

Judy

Tell us a little about being a mother to a child with Down Syndrome.   I love helping and teaching Gretchen and it’s been a joy to see her continue to learn and to accomplish goals.

What are some of the challenges?  We seem to constantly be moving towards becoming more independent. There have been a lot of roadblocks with finding independent living.   We live in a rural area so finding safe public transportation has been a challenge.  And it’s critical for independent living.  We’re still trying to figure it out. 

What are some of the joys?  Gretchen has become an invaluable member of our family.  She’s like our house manager. She does the tidying, laundry, and takes care of the cat.  She takes out our vitamins and knows her medicines, and takes them without any prompting. Tomorrow we will leave early for a meeting with the board for Self Advocates United for 1.  She has breakfast ready on the counter and picked out her outfit. The address is in her phone and she has the questions they will ask her written down.

What supports have been the most helpful? Other parents.  People who have gone before you have good, sound advice.  I find that bouncing things off other parents, is very helpful, for things like social security information, waiver dollars, and what’s out there to do (fun activities).  All the things Gretchen has done, I’ve found out through other parents. 

Now I feel happy to help others coming behind us, passing on information I know. It makes me happy to make it easier for others. 

Talk about Gretchen’s gifts, talents, and abilities. Gretchen is organized, caring, compassionate, and intuitive.

What would you like others to know about Down Syndrome? There are struggles and joys in raising a child with DS, not unlike any other child.

High Expectations

As the conversation with Gretchen and Judy came to a close, I asked if there was anything else they wanted to share.  In the background, Gretchen’s father chimed in, “High expectations!”  Judy explained, “We had high expectations of Gretchen, which is why she’s involved in as much as she is.  We thought she should do what other kids would do.  We took the time to show her how and expected that she’d be able to.  She still surprises us sometimes with what she can do.”