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Article of Interest - Down Syndrome

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Bridges4Kids LogoDown Syndrome Doesn’t Keep Ryan Down
by Ken Marten, Royal Oak Mirror, November 11, 2004
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Ryan Dupuis can do a cartwheel and play “Silent Night” on the piano. He likes Nightmare on Elm Street and other scary movies and his favorite class at Kimball High School is lunch.

A 16-year-old sophomore, Ryan is also a member of the girls cheerleading team.

And he has Down syndrome.

One of the world’s leading clinical causes of mental retardation, Down syndrome is a chromosome disorder that usually causes delays in physical, intellectual and language development.

But Ryan and his parents, Dana and Coleen, refuse to let it get in the way. Despite Ryan’s 19 surgeries. Despite his trouble with speech. Despite his near inability to read.

Ryan started cheering last school year.

“He was the manager of the football team,” Coleen said. “But instead of watching the football players, he kept watching the cheerleaders jump up and down and have fun.

“A bunch of the cheerleaders knew him because they knew my daughter (Tara). One day they asked him to march with them in the homecoming parade.”

Coleen credits last year’s cheerleading coaches, Kory Adams and Cindy Pisane, for embracing the idea. Ryan finished the football season with the cheerleaders and moved on to cheer with them at the boys varsity basketball games.

“I told him that there’s a lot to it, practices and the games,” Coleen said. “But he said he wanted to do it.”

Ryan is agile, which Coleen and Dana say is rare for individuals with Down syndrome. It helps him excel in cheerleading, on the dance floor, on the field and in the pool. Ryan has taken dance lessons for the past five years and he’s studying jazz. He’s also won a slew of medals at the yearly Special Olympics in Mt. Pleasant for swimming, soccer, bowling and basketball.

Ryan also takes piano lessons and enjoys choir class at Kimball.

But of all of Ryan’s interests, it’s cheerleading that has drawn the most attention.

“I think it’s been a positive thing all the way around for him, for the girls and for me,” said Sara Fedewa, this year’s cheerleading coach. “A lot of the kids in school now know him.”

Ryan’s dad agreed, recalling a boys basketball game last year.

“Some guys from the football team were sitting in the bleachers, and I told them, ‘Don’t you make fun of Ryan.’” Dana said. “They said, ‘Oh, we won’t. We want to be like him, out there with the girls.’”

Fedewa said that the cheerleading program has changed from last year. The Kimball and Dondero squads have merged, and it’s an all-girl sport that now focuses on competitive cheer.

“But we will cheer at some boys basketball games at both schools, and Ryan will be with us,” Fedewa said.

Like the other cheerleaders, life for Ryan will someday be harder than doing flips and the splits. The family is planning for the days after graduation.

“The majority of people with Down syndrome are semi-independent,” Coleen said. “My ultimate goal would be for him to be in an apartment with two or three roommates with some supervision.”

Until then, flips and the splits are just fine.


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