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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Born This Way

There is a new series airing on A&E called Born This Way. It is described as a "docu-series" about 7 adults who have Down syndrome. I think it is more like a reality series than a documentary because it isn't so much a documentary about Down syndrome as it is a peek in to the lives of these specific 7 adults.

Last night was the 3rd episode and I've yet to watch a single one; but I do plan to catch up on this series of 6 episodes (and you can watch - for free! - the episodes on A&E). Ep 1: Up Syndrome, Ep 2: What's Normal? and Ep 3: Dream Makers.

After the first episode I saw quite a few conversation threads on social media with some negative reviews being that A&E only found "high-functioning" adults with Down syndrome for this series and they were "Down syndrome superstars" or "cream of the crop". I wish there didn't have to be such a divide in the community over something like this. As I said, I haven't watched the episodes yet so I don't have an opinion on the actual show yet, but one of the cast members - Sean - is the subject of a book his mom wrote (that I reviewed - Who's The Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion) and his mom has reiterated that he is not what one would label "high-functioning" and the negativity surrounding the adults who were cast is unwarranted. She has pointed out that (if I remember correctly) they all live at home except one who is in a group home.

I've heard that they are all very well spoken and I might feel a twinge of jealousy watching that as I wish Kayla's speech was more well-rounded and that she had the conversational skills to advocate for herself.

Overall I think this sounds like an interesting series and definitely one that hasn't been done before - this isn't something society has seen. From what I've read so far the producers seem to have done a good job of being respectful of the individuals and not exploiting them. I'm looking forward to taking some time to watch and get a peek into their lives.

A cast member, John, had this to say, "I'm here. I'm alive. I'm human." People with Down syndrome and other disabilities have a voice and it needs to be heard.

If you've been watching this series what do you think about it so far?

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Sabrina Steyling said...

So far I find this series very interesting and informative. I can't wait to watch this third episode!

Stephanie said...

I have watched each episode and I am one of the people who has said that they are of super star quality. I don't think that's negativity. It's simply an opinion and I certainly didn't say it with any malice. They speak well, they talk about their emotions, they are contemplating things like moving out, getting jobs, working in the entertainment industry, relationships and getting married. That is "high functioning", although I cringe when I say or write that term, but it is. I don't see someone like my own son who is non verbal represented on that show, but I believe that is not what would make good television and this is after all reality TV. People want a good show. If the parents of these young adults are being defensive about people having an opinion about the show, well, then that's on them, not on us.

I like the show a lot because it makes me think about the future, what I could be doing to make sure Owen is able to be independent and I think the participants are very interesting and funny. I do think that people outside of the DS community who are watching the show may think that all people with DS are just those on the show and of course we know that's not true. But I'm happy that Down syndrome is coming into people's homes and opening a conversation that they probably weren't having before.

Cindy said...

We've been recording the shows but have only seen one so far, the 3rd one I believe. I found myself a little jealous about their ability to speak clearly and to discuss their emotions. They are 'higher functioning' than Beth but I still found it interesting and informative. The episode I watched showed two of the moms discussing their daughter's dreams and achievements, plus some of the difficult things of having Down Syndrome. I actually found myself sitting across from a mom whose son has Ds just a few weeks ago and we had some of those exact conversations! I'm thankful this show is on for no other reason than to show the world that people with Down Syndrome are just that, people. The world doesn't have to be afraid to talk to them or engage them in life. I hope Born This Way brings insight and encouragement to the rest of the world. It's like we're showing the world a little glimpse into our 'club' and I hope it only serves to educate and break down walls.

Evana Sandusky, Special Purposed Mom said...

I have been watching the show. I think the show would be a totally different one if it had people with Down syndrome with less speech or possibly less independent abilities. To me, Born this Way is a chance to peek into the lives of people with Down syndrome that are adult-age facing some real questions about their futures and how their parents are dealing with it. I find it fascinating!