Our story of advocacy starts with two babies who shared a womb, born just seconds apart, whose bond is unbreakable.
Whose expectations at home are the same: respect, hard work, and love. The only difference between the two is about 4.36 seconds…
Twins really catches people’s attention. So having twins, one typical and one with Down syndrome, can often feel like a circus.
A normal trip to the grocery story with my twin babies garnered constant attention. If I had a dollar for every time someone tells me “You have your hands full,” I would actually make a decent wage at this stay-at-home-mom gig. If I had a dollar for every time someone stares extra long at both boys, trying to figure out how they’re actually twins, I could retire!
The likelihood of having twins, one typical and one with Down syndrome, is 14 in a million. If families blessed enough to have a child with Down syndrome take the moniker the “Lucy Few,” then we’re the “Lucky Ones.” I really should start playing the lotto (LOL)!
That’s why meeting other families with twins, one with Down syndrome, is so special. You feel like you’ve met a secret tribe that fully understands the blessing, and sometimes curse, of having children the same exact age with such different developmental paths. If comparison is the thief of joy, imagine watching your son with Down syndrome struggle to do things that come naturally to his twin. Still, it also comes with many surprising perks.
We never take life for granted, and both our boys are true fighters with an empathetic spirit.
You can imagine my excitement then to meet a set of successful adult twins, a typical sister and a brother with Down syndrome. I got a chance to see 39-year-old Katie and Kris Faith at the National Down Syndrome Convention this summer in Sacramento. Theirs is also a story of advocacy that has led to a life of self-determination and success for both twins.
“When we were born in 1978, our doctor was not encouraging. He suggested to our parents that they did not have to take Kris home. But leaving Kris at the hospital was NEVER an option for our family,” Katie Faith Lingo says. Undoubtedly, the Faith family decision to keep Kris was the exception rather than the rule at that time. However, Katie says her parents were adamant that what others saw as a burden, would end up being a blessing.
An Inclusive Family
Today, Kris works at California’s Department of Developmental Services as an office aide after attending the local city college. His sister, Katie, has a Master’s in Special Education and is an Inclusion Specialist at their local school district. It’s obvious that Kris’ disability led them to a path of service, but how did they get here?
The twins say it was their parents’ openness and determination to include Kris in every aspect of life. “Kris was accepted and loved. He was also expected to be a contributing member of our family with the same chores and responsibilities as all his other siblings,” Katie describes.
And it wasn’t always Katie who protected Kris. “I remember finding Kris pinning a guy to a locker in high school. After defusing the situation, I asked Kris: ‘what’s going on? Was he bullying you?’ Kris said ‘no, he was making fun of you!” Katie remembers.
At a time when inclusion didn’t exist, Kris’ parents pushed for him to be mainstreamed in his neighborhood school, sharing classes with his typical peers. “In middle school I earned the highest award, the Principal’s Award for Courage and Determination. I was also the ball boy for basketball. It was fun!” Kris describes. He went on to graduate from high school, and enroll in both general and special education college courses.
It’s obvious the doctors were wrong about Kris Faith. “Kris ended up influencing the path of my life, and has given our family the unique ability to see individuals with disabilities as more alike than different,” Katie explains. “I’m so glad I was born into a loving family. I’ve been given many gifts. One day I dream of being a famous author or song writer, but I feel like I’m already living the dream!” Kris exclaims.