Young people with Down syndrome are constantly surprising their communities by showing how much they can achieve. They are learning to read and write, graduating from high school and college, and becoming fashion models and business owners.
Now, a Washington, D.C. teen made history last week when she became the first student with Down syndrome to graduate with a full high school diploma from the D.C. Public Schools, The Federalist reports.
Madison Essig graduated with 3.7 GPA and National Honor Society honors, but her mother had to fight to ensure her daughter had that opportunity, Fox 5 News reports.
Madison’s mom, Kimberly Templeton, said doctors told her that Madison might not ever read or write. But Templeton refused to give up on her daughter.
When Madison began attending school, Templeton said she wanted her daughter to have the same opportunities to achieve as any other child. She worked hard to convince school administrators to keep Madison in the same classroom and teach her the same materials as other children, according to the report.
“Until she proves she can’t do it, let’s not stop her now,” Templeton said.
Madison proved that she could.
Now, she is headed to college where she plans to study disability and advocacy policy through George Mason University’s LIFE program, according to the report.
Her story is an example of the potential to succeed in every child. Tragically, some do not see the value and potential in children like Madison while they are still in the womb. Parents frequently report that doctors pressured them to consider aborting their unborn child because of a disability like Down syndrome.
One mother recently wrote an emotional letter to her doctor after he suggested that she abort her unborn daughter with Down syndrome:
I came to you during the most difficult time in my life. I was terrified, anxious and in complete despair. I didn’t know the truth yet about my baby, and that’s what I desperately needed from you. But instead of support and encouragement, you suggested we terminate our child. I told you her name, and you asked us again if we understood how low our quality of life would be with a child with Down syndrome. You suggested we reconsider our decision to continue the pregnancy.
That mother chose life for her daughter, but research shows that some families give into the fears and prejudices about people with disabilities, and have abortions. Studies have found up to 90 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.
Several states also are passing laws to protect unborn babies with disabilities from discriminatory abortions. This spring, Indiana became the second state to pass a law banning abortions based on a genetic disorder like Down syndrome, race or sex. North Dakota was the first in 2013.