Resilience is when we strive to reach our dreams despite great adversity -- it’s a trait we'd like all our kids to have. And what better way to show them than through role models. Allow us to recommend one: Isabella Springmühl, a 20-year-old Guatemalan with Down syndrome who has become a fashion designer.
The talented young lady made her fashion debut at the London Fashion Week 2016 with colorful pieces showcasing the beauty of indigenous Guatemalan textiles and fabrics. Isabella, who has been sewing since she was young (for her dolls then), was credited to be the first fashion designer with Down syndrome to be featured in the prestigious event.
Before making it to the runway, however, Isabella had to face rejections and obstacles. After graduating from high school, she submitted an application to a university to take up fashion design. She wrote on her website that the school denied her application because of her condition. The same thing happened when she tried for another school.
Nothing could make her give up her passion so quickly. With support from family, she enrolled at a sewing academy where, slowly but surely, she built an impressive portfolio.
Isabella’s clothes are eye-catching and instantly recognizable, making use of woven fabrics and intricate embroidery inspired by the rich Guatemalan culture. “I love using Guatemalan textiles for my designs because they are very rich in colors and patterns and I identify with them because they are ‘carefree’… just like me,” she wrote.
Isabella’s ultimate goal, however, is to make fashion a more inclusive and accessible world for everyone. Her aim is to create a line specifically made for young adults and adults with Down Syndrome. “Because of the physical characteristics we have, sometimes it is quite difficult to find nice clothing that fits us well,” she said, attributing the issue to short torsos and necks in an interview with American TV show Despierta America, according to Vibe.
“My mother always had to fix the clothes she bought for me. So I decided to design clothes that fit people with Down syndrome…” she told Liftable. To that, she has created her fashion line called Down to Xjabelle, after her designer grandmother’s, Xjabelle.
“I want people to know my designs and to know that people with Down’s syndrome can do what they set out to do,” she said. “I want to inspire people; I want them to look around and see me…to look through into my heart…a girl with Down syndrome who has no fear and can reach her goal.”
February is National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month in the Philippines. It’s an excellent opportunity to introduce your kids to the world of special needs. The two books are heartwarming stories about sibling love, inclusion, and resilience. Parents will be a little teary eyed, and kids will be left with lessons to last a lifetime.
Written by award-winning children’s author Grace D. Chong, Palanca winner Big Brother (P80 at Pumplepie Books) tells the story of a young boy named Bunsoy who’s about to be named grade school class valedictorian. Unfortunately, he's having trouble juggling school and home responsibilities at the same time. While his mother who is an OFW is away, he looks after Kuya Tinuy, who is 21 years old and has Down Syndrome. Bunsoy feels that he's the kuya most of the time.
Towards the end of the book, Kuya Tinuy does something that will make kids and grown-ups alike cry. In that sense, it isn't your usual light fare when it comes to a children's book story. But, as Chong wrote in a blog post about the book, “I have always believed and felt, deep in my heart, that [children with Down syndrome] could understand and feel more than we think they can -- even if they remain as children while we grow up.”
If you do want something for light and preschool age, try Mommy ni Kuya, Mommy Ko!/ Kuya's Mommy is My Mommy (P84.75 at Pumplepie Books). The story is about Angel, who is the baby in the family. Yet, she feels that her older brother, Kuya Victor who has Down syndrome, is getting more attention from their mom. Angel's frustration is common for any child who has a sibling with special needs. This book can help him or her process what's happening with her sibling and why he needs the extra help and attention from her parents. If you're having trouble finding words, mom and dad, this book can help.