October is ‘Down Syndrome Awareness Month.’ All month long, News 25 has been shining a spotlight on those in the community.
News 25’s Kristen Anzuini spoke with one family today about the transition to adulthood.
The transition to adulthood from high school is difficult for anyone, but President of the Gulf Coast Down Syndrome Society Cindy Hansen tells News 25 that it can be especially hard for those with Down syndrome. “For most of our kids, young adults with special needs, that is their only support, social system. They learn, they grow, they make friends.”
Dakota Hansen is almost 22-years-old. He graduated from Long Beach High School at 19 and continued to go the school for two years as a ‘Plus’ student until he aged out at 21-years-old. “With our individuals with special needs, there is a gap that our young adults just don’t have. There is a loss between when they graduate and the next step. It’s like when they are in school, they have support, but as soon as they graduate or age out like Dakota did, it’s a whole new world and it’s daunting.”
Cindy says she would love to see more programs implemented to help make this huge life transition easier for students with special needs. “We need to get together and we need to connect with the schools. We need to do better as a society to try and fill that void for these kids who are aging out because we don’t have a great network for them to go to.”
Dakota is starting supportive employment exploration at the end of this month where he will hopefully put his skills to good use. “Individuals with Down syndrome, they love to participate, they love to help, whatever it is. Dakota, he likes showing his muscles. So anything you need that involves him showing off his muscles he is all in.”
If you would like to get involved with the community you can visit gcdss.org.