Sam’s Top Secret Journal - Why write a series staring a person with Down syndrome?
There are so many reasons, but first and for most would be to create hope and expectations for parents, siblings and society. Dev and Sue once heard Karen Gaffney (http://www.karengaffneyfoundation.com/) state: “I am not the exception, I am the possibility”. I think that is the same reason we wanted to have a literary figure for others to have in mind.
When you are a new parent you believe everything is possible. Your child will grow up to understand physics like *** Hawkins, sing like Barbara ***, play in the NFL like *** Elway, create like Oprah ***, be a doctor/lawyer/teacher… As the child grows into their own person those hopes and dreams get modified and the parent (hopefully) starts to consider realistic dreams for that child: college, family, a job…happiness… When you get an early diagnosis it seems all of those hopes and dreams are sucked into a vortex of doom. The dreams turn to worries. Our hope is to help keep those dreams alive for parents, kids and society. If we can help society change it’s viewpoint from measuring things someone can not do, to valuing ABILITY and appreciating differences each of us brings, than we will be happy.
The stories in the “Sam” series are fictional, but every thing that Sam does in the books is something our daughter Dev has done in real life. Does that mean every child with Down syndrome will be able to do the things that Sam does, of course not, every child is different, some will do more some less. But if you never knew about Anne Frank, Einstein, MLK, Marie Curie the list goes on and on, how limited our dreams would be. The stories written about these larger than life people expand our dreams and hopes for our own lives. Our goals may be kind of lofty but that is the reason for writing the books.
Sam’s Top Secret Journal - Book 1 - We Spy - Excerpt
Samantha was sitting in History next to her friend Abby. They were learning about the Egyptian Pharisee. Sam was one of the few 7th graders who actually liked school, she liked going to school with her friends, and she liked learning. Most days it was hard to keep Sam from smiling and today was no exception. Although she loved History, school was almost over and tonight was climbing night. One of Sam’s favorite things to do was climb at the local climbing gym. Most people out side of Michigan would have never thought of a place like Ann Arbor, Michigan as having a world class indoor climbing gym. That’s seems to happen when you take 20, 000 college students and submit them to several months of winter weather. Unusual businesses sprout up.
Sam was not your typical kid for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that she was 13 years old, liked her parents and liked school. She was just over five feet tall with wiry muscular arms, long brown hair and a smile that was infectious or annoying depending on if you were one of her siblings. Some people would say what made her different was that little extra stuff on her 21st chromosome. The people that actually knew her would say that it was much more then that.
Many people’s view of people with Down Syndrome was that they had very weak muscles, very loose joints, were very slow, very obese and didn’t do much of anything. Historically the expectation for kids with Down’s Syndrome was that they would be lucky to live into adult hood and live in a group home. The reality was much different, something Sam liked to prove on a daily basis.
The bell rang and Sam collected her books and went to get her bag from her locker. Abby’s locker was next to hers and she was waiting for Sam there. Abby wanted to remind Sam that play practice started this week and wanted to make sure Sam knew to tell her mother. Although Sam did have some trouble with school, her memory was not one of the problems and she reminded Abby that it was actually going to be Friday, not tonight and that she already knew what songs she was supposed to work on. After examining her notebook Abby conceded that Sam was correct and waved good bye as she ran off to soccer practice.