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Christy De Souza:Let me be me

By Melissa Doughty Sunday, March 27 2016

She loves English-Irish pop boy band One Direction. She gave a rare smile and said their song “Perfect,” is her favourite song.

She has two ultimate dreams: She would like to meet American singer-songwriter Adam Lambert one day, like her heroes on A&E’s Born This Way; and she hopes she could meet semi-retired American professional wrestler and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, so he could be her father.

At the age of 26, Christy De Souza has lived her life without the limiting ascriptions often attached to people with Down syndrome. Her mother, Josanne De Souza, told WMN in an interview at their home that Christy has lived her life virtually unaware of that fact that she has Down syndrome.

A frown worried her brow when she said she felt uncomfortable when she entered into “normal” social environments, a privilege denied many persons with Down syndrome in TT.

Christy, her mother explained, has become a self-advocate for persons with Down syndrome in TT and may appear on Born This Way after members of the cast visited this country for World Down Syndrome Day Conference on March 21.

Megan Bomgaars, one of the show’s cast members delivered an address at the conference held by the Down Syndrome Family Network. Christy’s self-awareness has brought her acclaim in the sphere. In 2013, she received the Personal Triumph Award at the National Youth Awards by the Government through the then Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs.

Although Josanne, said when she first found out that Christy had Down syndrome she was devastated, she beamed with pride when she described Christy’s accomplishments. She attributes these to being constantly optimistic.

She said, “After I got over the initial shock, I prayed, because I am always optimistic. I saw Christy as my child and a girl and nothing else. The fact that she had Down syndrome did not matter.”

Christy entered Little Flower Montessori school run by ‘Aunty Bunny Stanley’ at age three. Being in this “normal” environment and the work of the Down Syndrome Family Network has enabled Christy to adjust to everyday situations you and I may take for granted. Even without the help of a father figure in the home, Christy has managed to navigate through life with relative ease.

Josanne concedes that some societal strides have been made for persons with special needs in Trinidad and Tobago, but she believes there is still a long road to travel. She believes that ultimately persons with Down syndrome should be able to enter and transition through the regular school system.

She urges, “Have inclusion in the education system and teacher’s aides for special needs children in the classroom.” She advocates that they should have access to university education and meaningful jobs.

It was clear that what really made Christy into the woman she is today was her mother’s willingness to let her be, to navigate through the world even with what some might perceive a limitation, and giving her the space to be herself.

She smiled as she recalled Christy’s first social outing on her 21 birthday. She attended mas band Hart’s band launch and was ‘drunk on party’,” they both said, laughing. More parents, she said, need to stop placing limits on their children who have special needs. She also firmly stated that like any other child, children with special needs needed to be trained although parents need to have more patience when doing so. She also called on the parents to become more vocal.

Christy would love to work in a music shop one day since she loves music, but opportunities to do so are limited. She also loves dancing and was able to train for some time at the Elle NYTT Dance studio in Cascade. And although no longer attends, she has not stopped dancing.

The mother/daughter duo share a Saturday movie or lunch together religiously. When asked if she feared for Christy in a world without her, Josanne said no since Christy’s only sibling, Mark and a team of aunts, uncles and cousins would care for her.

Christy simply asks one thing of the people of TT; to remember that she is no different. She wants to get married and have kids one day too. Josanne looked on proudly as Christy said, “I am no different from other people. Do not stare at me so I won’t be uncomfortable. Do not limit me from anything.”

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