Film to show highs and lows of life with Down syndrome

A poignant television documentary is set to feature the triumphs of, and the challenges faced by, people with Down syndrome.

Film to show highs and lows of life with Down syndrome

The latest episode of TV3’s fly-on-the-wall Irish Lives series will this week explore the lives of three people with the condition, focusing on their families as they overcome hurdles, strive for greater independence, and take part in extraordinary events.

Cork woman Laura Ahern will reveal her personal experience of what life is like for a teenager with the condition.

In Irish Lives: My Extra Chromosome, Laura will speak about her love of gymnastics and her bid to represent Ireland at the Special Olympics.

The keen gymnast with the Owenabue club in Carrigaline, who attends Scoil Bernadette at the Cope Foundation in Montenotte, was filmed making her first trip abroad without her parents to take part in a gymnastics competition in Poole last year, where she won bronze on the beam.

Laura is now setting her sights on the Special Olympic Ireland Games in Limerick in June where she will be bidding to qualify to represent her country.

Her mother Rena said the whole family is very proud of Laura and her achievements.

“Laura was over the moon about being filmed for the series — it’s been a dream come true for her,” she said.

“We hope the programme will showcase what people with Down syndrome are capable of — it will be a very positive programme.

“It will also highlight the importance of the Special Olympics movement, particularly the social side of it.

“We hope it will create an awareness of what they are doing, and an acceptance of people with Down syndrome.”

Down Syndrome Cork, based at the Kilnap Business Park, will feature in the show as well.

“It’s all run on a voluntary basis, and the programme will show what parents are doing for themselves,” Rena said.

The documentary will also follow Maeve Walsh, 6, from Galway and Joe Feehily, 46, from Dublin, and their families and friends, as they try to find employment, further themselves through education, and strive for independence.

Pat Clarke of Down Syndrome Ireland said they were delighted with the documentary.

“We are absolutely delighted that TV3 have produced this worthwhile series which will create a greater understanding among the general public of what life is like for people with Down syndrome as they valiantly strive every day for greater independence,” he said.

Down syndrome is a chromosomal anomaly caused by an error in cell division in the womb. Nobody is quite sure why it happens.

* Irish Lives: My Extra Chromosome is broadcast on TV3 at 9pm tomorrow.

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