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Life with Achi

Growing up with people with Down's Syndrome? It's not as difficult as you think.
by Jill Chua, as told to Owen Santos

People have called her "different." Some have even called her "abnormal." But to my family, she's simply special.

Her name is Jean. She's my achi or ate—the eldest among four girls. Achi is 28 years old and has had Down's Syndrome since she was born. I was probably in kindergarten or prep when I first realized she was special. My second sister was already in the first grade, so Achi should have been in grade two. But she didn't go to school with us. I didn't know it then, but it turned out that she still hadn't learned to speak. At any time, my parents say, they were beginning to feel helpless until a Belgian nun in nursery school taught Achi how to talk. She painstakingly went through the mechanics of making sounds and mouth formations, teaching Achi the basics in front of a mirror. It eventually paid off. By seven years of age, Achi was speaking fluently.

Growing up, I never really considered Achi as different in an abnormal sense. To me, she was just someone with a distinctive personality. I guess it's because my sisters and I were brought up to consider a person with Down's Syndrome as just like any other person. In fact, while they may seem a little slower than most of us, people with Down's Syndrome are capable of learning things and becoming productive human beings.

But of course, it's not without its challenges.


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