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Down Syndrome Week, and a message on the importance of seeing the ability, not the disability


Robbie Page is on a roll with his knock-knock jokes. He’s already told about five of them, and his audience — CTV News — is eager for more.

“Yes please, I do want to hear a pizza joke,” I say.

“Never mind, it's too cheesy!" laughs Page in delight.

Page is a natural performer. The 10-year-old, who has Down syndrome, performs stand-up comedy and has been singing in public for the past five years.

"He’s got good timing,” says his mother, Mary Souter.

“Like, he really, really has skill — beyond what anybody could teach him, it’s really just innate,” she says of the Cowichan Bay resident.

What’s no laughing matter, however, are the feats performed by 26-year-old Miranda Yates, who also has Down syndrome and does equestrian vaulting — basically, gymnastics and dance on a moving horse. If you think that sounds hard, consider that she does it with limited vision owing to a degenerative condition that's causing her to go blind.

“I look at her and just laugh, because people underestimate her all the time and then they go, 'woah,'” chuckles her mother, Barb Yates, as Miranda practices her vaulting at a facility out in Metchosin.

She is clearly bonded with her horse, Sam.

“He became my best buddy,” she says happily.

But vaulting is just one of many sports the junior black belt in Kung Fu excels at.

“Rhythmic gymnastics, she does baseball, she’s done basketball, she’s done snowshoeing and swimming and also enjoys kayaking,” says her proud mother.

Yates and Page are two shining examples of the importance of seeing the ability, rather than the disability, when it comes to Down syndrome. That's a message emphasized by the Greater Victoria Down Syndrome Society as it marks Canadian Down Syndrome Week.

“(People with Down syndrome) are just living their lives just like we all are. They’re going to school, working and also have interests and have some real talent,” say Erin Mazzoni, the co-president of the Greater Victoria Down Syndrome Society.

Talent, like that possessed by 53-year-old Sue Anthony. A Victoria resident who has Down syndrome, she's an actress who has appeared in multiple movies and TV shows, dating back decades.

She has a message for young Page as he embarks on his own journey as an entertainer.

“Just believe in yourself and go for it,” she says.

Anthony, a graduate of Oak Bay High, lives on her own with some supports.

“It’s more important to believe in yourself and then not worry about what other people think of you,” she says. “I don’t see my self as disabled. I see myself as an adult, and that’s all that matters to me.” Top Stories

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