mosaic background behind a photo of Penny, who is a cheerleader at a basketball game

Some Thoughts on Down Syndrome and Cheerleading

One of my shining moments as a mother was forcing Penny to try out for cheerleading last year. I told her she didn’t have to participate if she made it, but she was required to try out. Then she made the team and loved every minute of every practice and game.

This year, she knew from the get-go that she wanted a spot on the team. She’s all in. Ready for practice in the morning. Clear on the schedule, even when it includes staying at school for 6 hours. 

She’s leading sideline cheers. She’s standing in the front for halftime routines. She’s learning and growing and contributing. 

And here’s the thing. The reason I even thought to make her try out for cheerleading is that five years ago, an older student with Down syndrome was also on the team. Her presence there helped to shape my imagination. She gave us a glimpse of what might be possible for Penny. 

That’s one reason why we have shared our story as a family for 17 years. We need our imaginations to be shaped and formed by the real stories of real people who are living lives and growing up and suffering through hardship and disappointment and celebrating friendships and possibilities. I’m so grateful for all the real people who have gone before us and given us a glimpse of what might be.

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