Sunday, September 13, 2009

Amazing Individuals with Down Syndrome

As I mentioned in my last post, I was very fortunate at the 10th World Down Syndrome Congress to have met many amazing individuals, with and without Down syndrome!

One young woman who really impressed me was Karen Gaffney. Karen is a '30-something' year old self-advocate from Portland, Oregon. Karen has earned a regular high school diploma, and graduated from Portland Community College after completing the requirements for an Associates of Science degree and a certificate to be a teacher's aide. An accomplished public speaker, Karen is also the President of The Karen Gaffney Foundation, which is devoted solely to helping other individuals with Down syndrome. In addition to all of the above, Karen is also an incredible athlete and has even swam the English Channel in a relay swim during the Summer 2001!

Karen's mom, Barbara, said that Karen learned to read at an early age using the whole-word approach and flashcards. She said they are strong advocates of teaching reading this way! They were both very happy to see that eReadingPro had put a reading program together using all of the research that is available on how children with Down syndrome learn to read, making it easy for parents (and educators) to teach their children to read early. She even purchased a program to give to Karen's previous Grade 5 teacher, who had a huge impact on Karen's academic success!

Karen, her family, and The Karen Gaffney Foundation are "dedicated to championing the journey to full inclusion for people with disabilities. Many young families around the country have become dependent on Karen, her messages to help them on the journey to full inclusion for their child." (Quoted from the Foundations's website). I urge you to visit their website for more information on The Karen Gaffney Foundation.

I sincerely hope many of you have the opportunity to meet Karen Gaffney at some point, (if you have not already). She is stunningly beautiful, has an amazing presence, and will inspire you beyond your wildest imagination!

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