Joseph & Makana
written by Joseph's mother Brenda
(Joseph & Makana are graduates of ICAN's December, 2013 Graduation Class.)
Joseph is now 20 years old and will be a graduating senior from Franklin Central High School on May 25, 2017. As we make final preparations for this big event in his life I can't help but reflect on the past and smile at how much Joseph has accomplished. Twenty one years ago when I was pregnant with Joseph and the doctors gave me the news he would be born with Down syndrome, I had never heard of Down syndrome nor did I know anyone with it. Doctors tried to tell me back then that Joseph would never walk, talk, learn or be a vital member of the community. Wow, how he has proved them wrong.
Joseph lives to love and to be loved. He loves to laugh, dance and be silly. He is outgoing, loves to ride horses, go to summer camp and watch WWE wrestling. Joseph plays a variety of sports year round with Special Olympics that includes softball, basketball, swimming, bowling, tennis and corn toss. He is a dancer for the Live Laugh Dance group and participates in an Ability Fitness group. In his high school, Joseph is a cheerleader and a unified track and field athlete. He has become very popular and is up for nomination for the Prom King Court. Joseph is not afraid of breaking barriers and becoming the first special needs person to do something. He was the first special needs person to attend his high school prom and also the first special needs person to work in his high school coffee shop. Joseph has also been featured on the news several times for events in his life. Such as representing Traders Point Christian Church when they held their fist special needs prom, doing a commercial with Tony Stewart, winning a photo contest in New York City and just most recently for Special Olympics. Joseph is an advocate for Down syndrome Indiana, GiGi's Playhouse and ICAN.
Joseph is a trooper keeping up with a very demanding and busy schedule. Although Joseph is very healthy, he still has many regular doctor appointments, weekly tutoring sessions and speech therapy. And through it all Joseph is usually accompanied by his best friend and side kick, Makana. We chose to get Joseph a service dog four years ago to help improve his speech, his balance and socialization by encouraging his peers to approach him. Having such a special dog, like Makana, has added and improved Josephs quality of live. Makana goes everywhere with him and has become his protector and best friend. Joseph has gained a lot of confidence, animal care and his speech has improved.
March is Disability Awareness Month. This year's Disability Awareness Month theme is "I'm Not Your Inspiration" – emphasizing that people with disabilities are people first. Often, people with disabilities who are successful, athletic, employed or simply good neighbors are put in the spotlight as an inspiration to others. While it can be difficult to navigate life with a disability, many people in the disability community would prefer to be acknowledged for the many real contributions they make and for a life well lived.