TORONTO - Every March 21 marks the International Day for Down’s Syndrome. The date was not randomly selected. One of the manifestations of this condition is in fact called Trisomy 21.
Every human cell is composed of 23 couplets of chromosomes, pairs that contain our DNA. In those who manifest Down’s Syndrome, the 21st “couplet” is in fact a unit that contains a 3rd chromosome, hence Tri-some, three identical chromosomes.
An English doctor, John Langdon Down, after studying patients manifesting the condition, 150 years ago, published his findings on those affected by Trisomy 21. It was not until 1959 that a more detailed study of Down’s Syndrome by the French researcher, Dr. Jerome Lajeune, provided evidence that the condition was in fact genetic.
From a medical point of view, Down’s Syndrome has been classified as a disability, manifesting as cognitive and motor skills delay. But the most severe disadvantage is actually caused by the fact that subjects of the Syndrome are excluded from virtually all social interactions, beginning from early childhood.
Over the years, studies and experiences have proven that challenges, integration and scientific therapies can afford them a regular lifestyle.
Intelligent, focused and gifted with unique sensibilities, the persons in question can enrich the social environment in which they live, notwithstanding others express little patience or tend to marginalize them, viewing them as having limited or zero capacities. But this is absolutely not the case.
There are many examples of those who have achieved University Degrees, on their own. Autonomous and talented, they ask only to be treated as peers equal to others, not tolerated for the sake of adherence to a concept of “diversity”.
Several years ago, an initiative to offer work and, self-fulfilment to these special people emerged in the city of Brampton, in Northwest GTA: a bakery specializing in cupcakes, pies and biscotti whose owner is Cristina, a nine-year-old with a zest for life and a desire to be recognized, to impress, and cause others to marvel in envy.
The motto on display throughout this lively coloured boutique reads: “I wouldn't change you for the world, my little C, but I promise to change the world for you, one cupcake at a time”.
These are the words of Mary Romano Lusso, Cristina’s mother, an indefatigable and dynamic woman who not only manages the project, in addition to spending her days in a vanilla-aromatic laboratory, actively defends and promotes the rights of persons like her daughter through awareness campaigns in the schools and social sphere.
Mary immediately felt herself privileged upon learning that she was about to give birth to Down Syndrome child. It has never been for her some drama or obstacle of life to overcome. The concerns she has for Cristina are no different than those she has for her other two children. Her most onerous time is that which she spends eroding the stereotypical images that have emerged around these truly exceptional persons. She rejects with firmness any expressions of commiseration; she detests it whenever someone addresses expressions of pity or regret (however muted) for her daughter’s condition.
“I can only offer Cristina and the other children an opportunity. It is up to them to hone their skills and display their talents”,
Mary says emphatically, ”moreover, I would like to show others how to treat and welcome people like Cristina”.
Each of us comes into this world for a purpose and these people, without any hint of prejudice, do not see in us any “diversity”.
Meanwhile, we tend to treat them as disabled. In defiance of all that, Cristina is already showing unrivalled talents of leadership and camaraderie – and she is only nine years old.
Cristina’s Tortina Shop has much more to offer than cookies and cupcakes. Every visit is an ideal lesson in life: people like Cristina always have something extra, and not just that additional chromosome.