My story as a father of a child with Down syndrome starts similarly to many others. Erika and I found out in utero that our daughter Amara had an extra chromosome. The doctor told us that she would have a myriad of health problems and would be a burden to us as her caretakers. I had no idea what Down syndrome was and what it meant for Amara and us. As we all know, the bleak picture this doctor painted of Amara’s life turned out to be a complete fallacy. Amara is a 9-year-old girl that brings instant fun and sunshine to any room. She has meaningful relationships with her peers at school and around our community. Needless to say, she has touched many lives, inspired many people, and continues to do so every day. I could go on and on about her accomplishments and my proud dad moments.
The one idea that has always resonated with me is how little I knew about Down syndrome before Amara came along. I never had a relationship with or even met an individual with Down syndrome. I didn’t know the first thing about it. How was this possible? How could I have lived to be an adult in this world with zero experience with Down syndrome? I believe it is largely due to society’s historical tendency to marginalize people with disabilities. I know we, as a society, have come a long way in how we treat individuals with disabilities, but we still have a long way to go. I see so many inequities in social acceptance, education, athletics, and employment every day. It is this assertion that has been a huge motivational factor in my life.
Since Amara and subsequently, Down syndrome, became a part of my life, I’ve learned so much. I became interested in child development and learning. When Amara was about 2, I actually changed my career to become a special education teacher. I had always felt that this was the right career for me, but didn’t have the courage to do it until Amara came along.
The last 3 years a new pursuit, inspired by Down syndrome, has entered into my life: The Baltimore Buddy Walk. I have been fortunate enough to serve on the Buddy Walk committee all three years we have been able to have it in the Baltimore area. This event takes an abundance of time, planning, and coordination. I have had the opportunity to work with some absolutely amazing, passionate people for these events. My interest in Buddy Walks began when I attended them in South Florida, where my mother lives. I was blown away by the size of these events and the power they had. When Baltimore finally became an authorized area to host Buddy Walks, I knew I wanted to be a part of organizing them. Each consecutive year has brought a more enthusiastically supported Buddy Walk. It has been so amazing to see families and friends rally around individuals with Down syndrome in support. It’s a chance to come together and celebrate these individuals and their unique roles in their respective communities. It’s also our chance to be heard (and seen) by the rest of the public. Our community has been extremely quick to embrace this event and it shows how strong the greater Baltimore DS community is.
Bio: Brian is a high school special education teacher in Baltimore City. He is the father of 9-year-old Amara and 5-year-old Kieran. He is the chair of the fundraising committee of CDSPG and the co-chair of the Buddy Walk planning committee. He and his wife Erika moved to the Baltimore area in 2004 and are proud Baltimore City residents.