Down Syndrome Is A Genetic Disorder:5 Strange Realities About Parents

“You know it’s part of her ‘syndrome.’”

There are many characteristics associated with Down syndrome, but that doesn’t mean every individual with Down syndrome has every characteristic. So when you try to tell me my child will be “stubborn” or contract a life-threatening illnesses because “it’s part of her syndrome,” understand that I will internalize a massive face-palm before turning and walking away.


“You know she’ll never get married!”

Is that really what you think? And if so, you really shouldn’t have verbalized it. Eden may get married, she may not and it would be the same if she didn’t have Down syndrome.

Eden will live a full life. She will go to school, gain employment and, much to her father’s horror, she will have boyfriends. Who knows what will happen after that? What I do know is that society is changing and there are wonderful people all over the world with different abilities getting married. At the end of the day, it’s her choice, not yours.

“What’s wrong with her?”

Sometimes you just have to laugh, and that’s exactly what I did after hearing this statement. This was yelled at me by the shop assistant from across the store, a good 10 meters away so everyone in the store would turn and stare.

It was while Eden still had a nasal gastric tube, and while I believe this comment was aimed at the tube and not at her diagnosis, it wasn’t the politest way to ask. I explained the tube this time and then every time we visited the store for the next 10 months.

“She couldn’t ask for a better family!”

Darn tootin’, its true, Col and I are all kinds of amazing super parents. But while in context this is meant as a compliment, it also comes in other forms of statements, and the most common is, “God only picks special people to parent special children.” The choice is really ours.

“Oh, that’s a shame!” (This also comes out as “I’m sorry…”)

What ever happened to the good old-fashioned celebratory greeting at the birth of a child: “Congratulations!”? So simple, yet eloquent, goes well with pink or blue and trust me when I say after the whole birthing process, it’s all any parent wants to hear (diagnosis or not)!

 “How long will she live for?”

My response to this is always, “I don’t know, how long will you live for?” They stare at me blankly, and there’s an awkward silence while I internalize yet another face-palm.



A Different Way of Thinking About Autism

What if the world stopped seeing autism as abnormal? Many people with Asperger’s syndrome or autism embrace their condition. They seek respect for ‘neurodiversity’, not a cure.

Even after Dawn-joy Leong was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in her early 40s, she felt there was something missing. The description was too pathological, too focused on the gaps. Everything she valued about herself, including how she saw the world – patterns within patterns – was called an impairment.

She didn’t think she was impaired. She has challenges, sure: being in a crowded room is like experiencing a Wagner opera, a bombardment of sound from every direction. She’d rather be somewhere quieter, where she can distinguish conversation as if she is picking out the harmonies of a four-part Bach piece.

Leong, an artist, was researching autism in 2007 for her multimedia composition Scheherazade’s Sea, which portrays her world from the inside out. Just like the famous storyteller, she survives the social world by spinning narratives others want to hear.

Dawn-joy Leong with Lulu

Dawn-joy Leong with Lulu

“So has many an Autistic person,” says the slight 50-year-old, sitting on a sofa in a Rose Bay apartment where she’s moved to finish her thesis in art, design and media at The University of New South Wales. Her assistance dog Lulu, a rescue greyhound, is lying beside her, all angles and haunches.

In her research one day, she came across ‘neurodiversity’ for the first time. A radically simple concept, coined by Australian sociologist Judy Singer in the 1990s, neurodiversity states that conditions like autism are natural brain variations, not brain malfunctions.

“Finding out about neurodiversity was life-changing,” says Leong. “I wasn’t ill. It’s just a neurological difference. It’s like having a Mac computer operating system when other people run Windows.”
She stopped using labels like “high functioning” and “low functioning”. They define a person’s abilities by how much they can mimic “neurotypical” behaviour – the name given to people with neurologically common brains.

Autistics experience the world differently. People call her high functioning, saying, “You don’t seem Autistic! You’re so normal!”

Relating this, she looks annoyed: “It’s not a compliment. To me, it’s like saying, ‘You don’t seem to be Chinese, you’re so Western!’”

“I want to show that autism doesn’t mean limited.”

The Autistic self-advocacy movement began to form in the early days of the World Wide Web, 30 years after the first autism groups were founded by parents. The community capitalises the A for Autistic, just as the Deaf community does with its D.

In 1994 there were already online spaces where people “on the spectrum” congregated, according to 47-year-old Tony Langdon, from Bendigo in Victoria. A year later, he set up a web page telling of his life as an Autistic gay man, at a time when the focus of autism was on children.

Langdon was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at 24. That explained why he’d always had trouble fitting in and why he’d developed tricks to cope with sensory sensitivities. Over time, it has given him a sense of identity.

A casual primary school grounds-keeper, Langdon has trouble hearing words in the presence of low-frequency noise and struggles with some goal-oriented tasks. But he can be rational in a crisis, which must help in his role as a volunteer fire-fighter. He can ‘hyper focus’ and sees patterns which give him an unusual window on the world.

He’s good at some things and bad at others. He doesn’t like repetitive work, or sitting inside playing video games. Despite coordination issues, he likes sports. He also enjoys meeting people.

“I want to show that autism doesn’t mean limited,” he says, “or even conforming to preconceived notions.”

“I ran my fingers over its trunk, feeling every bump and fell in love with what I saw.”

Being able to distinguish patterns in anything – sounds, sights, ideas – is common to Autistic people. Elinor Broadbent, of Langwarrin in Victoria, uses a picture taken in Dunolly to illustrate how she sees the world. Most people would glance and see a dead tree, the 36-year-old says. But from 50 metres away, she had a different reaction.

“I could see the cracks in the trunk, the weather-worn surface and the patterns the lines made, as they curved around together,” she writes, via email. Typing gives her room to think.

“As a sensory seeker, I ran my fingers over its trunk, feeling every bump and pit and fell in love with what I saw. So I took a photo, to capture that moment, and it still leaves me with a sense of awe.”

As a service supervisor for Coles, Broadbent says her autism brings bonuses and negatives to her work. She’s good with routines and pays attention to detail. Observing patterns has helped her teach time management to other supervisors. But she finds it difficult to filter out noises, using coping strategies such as earplugs.At any given time in her job, she hears registers opening and closing, music playing, keys rattling, bags shuffling, feet scuffing on the pavement outside, car doors opening, people talking, the staff room door at the other end of the store opening and closing, noises from other departments and more. Her managers support her when her senses are flooded, which makes a “huge difference”.

She says Aspie supremacists “dream of islands full of people with Asperger’s”.
Katharine Annear

Neurodiversity received a profile boost with the recent publication of US writer Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes. He argues that people with differently wired brains have always existed – some of them geniuses because of their autism, not despite it – and details how diagnostic criteria have expanded. The rate of autism has risen from 1-in-2000 in the 1970s, to 1-in-68 this decade.

Meanwhile, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) was founded in North America in 2006, to promote neurodiversity and give Autistic people a voice in discussions about autism. Its slogan is “nothing about us, without us”.

“Don’t try to cure me. Try to understand me.”

Another major US advocacy group, Autism Speaks (AS), has come in for sustained vitriol over its campaigning. “Autism Speaks wants you to hate Autistic people by demonizing autism as a fate worse than death,” reads a YouTube comment posted on one of its documentaries. “They tell you it steals your children and ruins marriages. How do you think it feels to be Autistic and hear that?”

Another comment: “Don’t try to cure me. Try to understand me.”

Neurodiversity activism is not like that in Australia. There’s no local equivalent of AS. Mainstream autism organisations have toned down their rhetoric from that seen six years ago in a fundraising advertisement from Autism Awareness Australia (AAA), which darkly warned that “30,000 Australian kids have been kidnapped – by autism”.

Local ASAN head Katharine Annear, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in her 20s, calls the ad part of a “shock, horror” approach that makes Australians fear autism. The 42-year-old, who speaks via Skype from her Adelaide home, is a part-time lecturer at Flinders University who also works in the disability field. She has swept-over hair, dyed different colours, and exhibits slight weariness from decades of campaigning.

A wooden box was built to lock up distressed clients at a Victorian day care centre run by Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), reported The Age. A 10-year-old boy was caged in a Canberra public school in March, according to the ABC. And The Sydney Morning Heraldreported a 16-year-old boy was found chained to his bed in Sydney’s Blacktown in November.

Other spaces used to seclude children with disabilities were listed by disability advocate Julie Phillips, in an August 2015 submission to the Senate Education and Employment Reference Committees. They included a locked cupboard, outdoor pens and a disused schoolroom otherwise used for junk.

One Special Developmental School, the submission alleged, had placed children in a room, the size of a disabled toilet, with wooden walls and no windows. It was bolted from the outside.

“If you were non-verbal, a young child, and in grief and pain all day, wouldn’t you be violent?”

Annear says sensory challenges can be suddenly overwhelming. Frustration with not being able to communicate can lead to challenging behaviour. Leong poses the question: if you were non-verbal, a young child, and in grief and pain all day, wouldn’t you be violent?

ASAN-AUNZ, which has 170 members, engages in systemic advocacy – submissions to the NDIS, for example, on how to include Autistic voices in services – and social media campaigning. Annear says new Facebook groups run by other Australians form almost daily.

Melbourne has a growing media and arts scene for younger people who are less interested in the local ASAN affiliate’s patient coalition-building. Monash University student Julia Pillai is founder of the Great Minds Don’t Think Alike podcast, which discusses neurodiversity from the view of neurodiverse people.

“People say they ‘understand’ why a parent would chain up their son.”

“We are stereotyped and objectified [in the media],” she says.”We tend to be either put in the gutter, such as when people say they ‘understand’ why a parent would chain up their son when they went out, or on a pedestal – insert genius-savant trope here.”

That kind of binary thinking isn’t helped by the description of autism as low- or high-functioning. In his book, Silberman quotes British psychiatrist Lorna Wing: “The spectrum shades imperceptibly into eccentric normality.”

Joel Wilson, 29, from Perth, says, “I function well at some things and horribly at others. I know Autistics who are pre-verbal – don’t speak – but, through accessible technologies, have university degrees.”

Within the Autistic community, there are differences over how to protest everyday indignities. Wilson was called a “scab” after he wouldn’t ridicule Aspect online for its day-centre wooden box. But he asks, “If a large organisation is shut down, then what happens to the [many] Autistics they support?”

And there is a gulf between self-advocates and mainstream autism organisations, often formed and led by parents.

“I haven’t had a positive interaction with any of them,” says Ashley Waite, a Melbourne Greens candidate who was diagnosed Autistic in her 20s.

“It’s a ridiculous notion that we’re doing something evil to these children.”

AAA’s CEO Nicole Rogerson, who calls AAA a “parent group”, admires the move to self-advocacy. She worries, though, that neurodiversity might obscure “very real challenges”.

Some Autistic people can’t speak for themselves and need others to advocate on their behalf, she says. Others need skills to reach their best potential.

“It’s a ridiculous notion [that] we’re doing something evil to these children,” she adds. “We love them to death.”

She has been criticised for not condemning the mother of the Blacktown teenager chained to his bed. But she stresses, “It’s never OK to abuse a child. Ever.”

“Of course, I’m a mum, and I’m going to look at it through a mum’s perspective. We need to support the family. That boy only has his mum. Demonising her online is not okay.”

ASAN’s Annear recognises there is often a lack of services, but says, “If you feel you can’t parent your child for whatever reason, we do live in a society where you can relinquish them. You don’t have to abuse and neglect them.”

There are common goals. Annear shares Rogerson’s concern that not all people on the spectrum are thriving. Much has been written of how some Autistics can flourish in professions such as engineering and IT. Annear worries about the person with an IQ of 160 and no independent living skills, who pees in a jar because they can’t face leaving their room.

Tony Langdon agrees many Autistics need help with challenges which can also include communication, sensory issues, self care and mental health.

“I’m not against treatment,” he says, “but treatments should be to improve the person’s quality of life, not to make them look ‘normal’ to society.”

In Neurotribes, Silberman wrote of young Autistic twin boys being given electric shocks in a California-based experiment in 1965 if they didn’t obey the researcher. Cattle prods were widely used that decade, in an attempt to stop a child’s Autistic mannerisms, such as rocking backwards and forwards.

Leong questions a behavioural modification technique called Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), which aims to teach Autistic children common social interactions such as looking someone in the eye. She says ABA wants to draw the neurodiverse into a neurotypical world. Looking into someone’s eyes can make her afraid because she doesn’t know why she’s doing it.

She says, “I agree that children need to learn basic manners, and if your Autistic child is violent because of an unknown reason, it has to be addressed … [but] is it to suit your social norms, or do you want your child to suffer less?”

The push for more Autistic representation has been realised at the Brisbane-based Autism Co-operative Research Centre (CRC), a world-first national co-operative body which brings together dozens of different organisations to study diagnosis, education and adult life. Each of their 43 projects has an Autistic person involved.

CRC head Judy Brewer, who has a 22-year-old Autistic son, says she was determined from the start to involve Autistic people. It took years for them to find a suitable board member.

“We didn’t want a token person,” she says, speaking in a personal capacity. “We wanted someone with a skills base we need.”

“There’s you and there’s me, but let’s develop a new concept of us.”

ASAN-AUNZ can trace its roots to the days before Facebook, when people communicated via internet relay channels (IRC) and Yahoo groups. Three of its current board, including Annear and Langdon, first met on the #a4 IRC channel.

Now social media plays a big role in activism – criticising news stories for an inappropriate focus, for example. The Twitter hashtag #actuallyautistic is popular. Ashley Waite also promotes neurodiversity via politics. “I think it’s necessary. A bunch of people yelling about it on social media is never going to be enough on its own.”

The politics of neurodiversity reminds her of where the queer rights movement was 20 years ago.

Waite says how political parties approach neurodiversity – wrong most of the time – reminds her of where the queer rights movement was at 20 years ago. “it’s very similar in terms of public perception and legal rights.”

Similarly, many parents used to want their gay children ‘cured’, she notes. “They used justifications like ‘they’ll never be able to have a family’, ‘they’ll never have a quote normal unquote relationship’. Ostensibly, what parents wanted was for the good of their children.

“The same thing is happening now – a large number of parents of Autistic children want them cured because it’d be ‘better’ for the child, but very, very few Autistic people agree with that.”

The word “cure” is a four-letter flag for many Autistic people, who see it as a negation of their existence. Annear says decades spent trying to find one “fundamentally says to Autistic people there’s something wrong with you”. Any number of causes have been suggested over the years, including being born in summer, diabetes during pregnancy, older fathers, low birthweight, high birthweight, being a second born, being a later born, living near a motorway, ‘cold’ parenting by mothers and, notoriously, vaccines.

Parents go to extreme lengths for a cure. Some make their children drink a bleach solution called Miracle Mineral Solution, in the belief it will kill worms which ’cause’ the condition. Diet and energy medicine form part of an “integrative healthcare solution” promoted online. Stem cell trials have been conducted. There’s even an Ayurveda treatment, based on traditional Indian medicine.

Judy Brewer defends Autism CRC’s funding of genetic research, saying results should only be used to understand and help Autistic people. “Those who want to do this for a cure should not be supported,” she says. “Neurodiversity adds to every aspect of society. I’m not looking for a cure and I’m a parent. I love my son 100 per cent.”

Some Autistics, though, want a cure. One of the most prominent is Jonathan Mitchell, who runs Autism’s Gadfly blog. The 60-year-old American thinks the lack of pro-cure voices is because the people who want curing are more severely afflicted and find it harder to communicate.

“Autism would be like a blue screen for Windows,” he says.

Mitchell’s autism has affected his whole life, stopping him from having a full relationship and hindering his ability to earn a living. He has bad fine-motor skills, and struggles to write and do chores.

“Neurodiversity provides simplistic solutions to hard problems,” he says, by phone from Florida. The analogy of Autistics having a different computer operating system “trivialises” a “bad disability”. He says, “Autism would be like a blue screen for Windows.”

“I’ve been called a self-hater,” he adds. “I don’t hate myself, I just wish there was a cure so I could function better – and others like me who are younger would have a chance for a better life.”

A now-defunct website of the same name told of a forgotten civilisation called ‘Aspergia’. Its inhabitants thrived in a social structure unlike that which dominates today. They were born with a specific talent and enjoyed solitude to pursue their passions, with periods of uncomplicated company. The ocean rose and reclaimed Aspergia, leading to a diaspora and integration with people whose customs were alien to them.

“In many ways, while we try to assimilate into society, we live in an entirely different world and as a result many have begun to see themselves as the Autistic Peoples,” says Elinor Broadbent, a moderator on two Facebook autism groups.

“That does not make us superior or inferior to anyone else, it just means that we connect on a level of understanding that very few on the outside can grasp”.

At the far end of Autistic pride sit the “Aspie supremacists”, says Annear – usually “white and male”, believers in Asperger’s syndrome as another stage of evolution, which gifts them a superior brain. She does not share this view, which she finds divisive.

“They dream of islands full of people with Asperger’s.” She pauses and chuckles. “Which would probably be an unmitigated disaster.”

Elinor Broadbent knows of a “very small group” that’s even looking into buying land and setting up its own state.

“They have a vision of creating an environment where they would be 100 per cent in control of their social structure,” she says. Fitting into a society which makes no compromises is too difficult for them.

The flip side of separatism is a concept called ‘neurocosmopolitanism’ – a way of trying to understand different perspectives, just as multiculturalism tries to understand different cultures.

Leong wonders whether this could be lead to engagement between the neurodiverse and the neurotypicals.

“There’s you and there’s me,” she says. “But let’s develop a new concept of us.”



Classic & Tangy Deviled Eggs Only 0.3g Net Carb Per Serving-(Low Carb, Keto, Gluten free)

“I used to watch my grandmother make this dish when I was a little girl,” says Quick & Simple’s Family Recipe contest runner-up Pam Pinero of Oklahoma City. “It was a staple at many of our holiday celebrations.”

Image result for DEVILLED EGG

  • 6 eggs
  • 3 tbsp Real Mayo
  • 1 tsp Yellow Mustard
  • 1 tsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Place 6 eggs in a pan with water – enough to cover them. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmering. Cook 15 minutes. Drain and add cold water to pan. Let stand 2 minutes, then peel.

Cut eggs in half an scoop out yolks. In a bowl mash yolks up, then add mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix well. Scoop yolk mix into pastry bag with large tip and squeeze yolks into egg cavity. If you don’t have a pastry bag you can just use a spoon to fill the egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika if desired. Cover and refridgerate.

Nutrition info: Per serving – 61 calories, 106 cholesterol, 55 mg sodium, 5.3 g fat, 0.3 carbs, 0 fiber, 3.1 protein.



I Know What Causes Autism

Last week I was surfing the Internet and came across a headline proclaiming autism and circumcision are linked. I couldn’t help myself. I laughed out loud.

In no certain order, I have read the following explanations for autism over the years:

Autism is caused by mercury.

Autism is caused by lead.

Autism begins with poor maternal bonding.

Certain pesticides may trigger autism.


Gluten aggravates autism spectrum disorder.

People with autism should eat more strawberries.

Too much automotive exhaust is a leading cause of autism.

Chemicals found on non-stick cookware may trigger autism.

The one about maternal bonding is sort of painful for me. The truth is, I did have a hard time bonding with infant Jack. The little guy shrieked and whined and cried for a solid year. He started sleeping through the night at six weeks, and stopped at three months.


I was exhausted, and Joe and I were fighting constantly; bickering and arguing and having long screaming matches. For the first time, I could feel my marriage slipping away from me like sand through my fingers.

And my first child, Joey — sweet, uncomplicated, good-natured Joey — was a year old at the time. His easy nature only highlighted his new brother’s fussiness.

But I am certain there is no one on Earth more bonded to my son Jack now, and guess what? He still has autism.

I am happy to announce that I do know what caused Jack’s autism, and without further ado, I’d like to tell you.

Wait for it.

It’s kind of a big deal.

Drum roll, please.

Jack has autism because, as his 5-year-old brother Henry says, he was bornd-ed with it.

Yes, I believe autism is a genetic condition. I believe that somehow Joe’s DNA mixed up with my DNA and together we had a child who thinks Wednesday is orange. Perhaps his unique genetic coding makes him more sensitive to things in our environment like lead and mercury and plastic.

I don’t know about the strawberry thing, though.

(For years I blamed Joe’s side of the family for the autism gene. But a few years ago I went to a funeral for someone on my side of the family, and I looked around the room and was all like hmmmmm.)

I was in a coffee shop last week and a woman came up and introduced herself to me. She said her daughter, Lily, is in Jack’s fifth grade class. I nodded and smiled, took my cup of coffee — OK, OK, and my cupcake — from the counter, and turned to leave.

“Wait,” she touched my arm. “I just wanted to tell you something. Lily told me that a boy called Jack weird the other day in class.”

I cringed. “Oh, well, yes. That happens.”

“Lily said she told the boy that Jack isn’t weird. She told him he’s exactly the way he’s supposed to be.”

You can see my dilemma. If I start running around declaring autism an epidemic and screeching about how we need to find out where it’s coming from and who started it and how to cure it, well, that sort of contradicts the whole message of acceptance and tolerance and open-mindedness.

This fragile glass house we’ve been working so hard to build over the past decade will explode into a thousand tiny pieces.

But on the other hand, it sort of is an epidemic. Other families are going to have babies and maybe they would like to have some idea of how to prevent this tricky spectrum disorder from striking. My own children will have their children, and if autism is indeed caused by automotive exhaust, it would be good to know so we could all buy electric cars.

At the same time, I don’t want to focus so much on the what and when and where and how that I forget about the who.

Because I don’t care where it came from.

But I am kind of curious.

It doesn’t matter to me why Jack has autism.

But it might be good information to have.

There’s nothing wrong with him.

Maybe there’s a little something wrong with him because he just spent the last 45 minutes talking about all the different kinds of gum that Walmart sells.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

I might change a few things.

I celebrate autism and all of its spectacular wonder.

I hate autism because it makes my son talk about gum and Walmart so much.

He is broken.

He is whole.

Autism is no one’s fault.

Maybe I should stop using Tupperware and make him eat strawberries even though he hates them and re-paint the house to make sure there is no lead on the walls or the windowsills.

Maybe I should throw away our frying pan.

Maybe I should have loved him harder, deeper, more when he was a tiny swaddled baby squirming in my arms.

Maybe this is my fault.

As you can see, my feelings about Jack’s autism diagnosis are as complicated as a prism with a thousand colors and angles and light. Some days, my doubts are soft whispers within my heart; other times it’s as though someone is shouting in my ear.

I am not a scientist. I am not smart enough for that. But I am a mother. And although I am not really smart enough for that either, I do know autism from that angle. I know the rigidity and the obsessiveness and the rage over having an aide in school. I know the disappointment and the fear. I know the quiet longing that comes with being different or weird, because I see it every single day.

When you live with someone who has autism, you say the phrase for now a lot.

For now, the radio is on the right station.

For now, he’s not screaming.

For now, he’s sleeping.

For now, he’s safe.

So, for now, I’m going to believe Jack’s autism is because of DNA and RNA and heredity.

For now, I will try to add broad splashes of green and blue and purple and orange to science’s black and white brush strokes. Together, we will fill in autism’s canvas until a clearer picture comes forward.

I don’t know exactly what that picture looks like yet, but I like to imagine it is a utopia of sorts: the perfect intersection of science and people. There are strawberries and puppies and lots of peppermint gum in Walmart, the kind in the blue container.

There are tall, blonde girls named Lily and boys with glasses named Jack.

And if you look hard enough, you can see a glass house in the distance — almost on the horizon. It glints and sparkles in the sunlight, and it is breathtaking.

If you look closer, you will see a sentence etched into the front door. This one sentence — this collection of eight words — well, they are very, very big.

They are a shored wall against a flood of uncertainty.

They are a million bright stars in an otherwise long, dark night.

They are peace and forgiveness, power and pride. They are everlasting absolution.

The first time I heard them, I was in a coffee shop buying a cupcake.

“He’s exactly the way he’s supposed to be.”



The Genocide Of Down Syndrome Infants Continues Unabated

Reportage at the Jerome Lejeune Institute in Paris, France. The Institute treats patients suffering from Down's Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities of genetic origin.

Mikayla Holmgren couldn’t have had a more difficult start. She was born six weeks premature, she was missing an esophagus, and she was diagnosed with Down syndrome. In the 22 years since her birth, however, Mikayla hasn’t simply walked through life, she’s charged through it.

A dancer and a gymnast, Holmgren has shown a desire for the spotlight, according to the Star Tribune:

[She] competes solo and with the dance team at Bethel University, where she’s in her first year of a two-year postsecondary program for students with intellectual disabilities.

Having conquered gymnastics and dance, Mikayla has decided to take on another challenge – the Miss Minnesota USA pageant:

When Holmgren takes the stage later this year, she will be the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the state pageant, and as far as pageant officials know, the first in the country.

The Star Tribune quotes Holmgren: “I want the whole world to see that I can do things that are hard and that people with Down syndrome are beautiful and talented.”

Mikayla is also blessed with loving parents, who value her humanity above all else:

“From the start, my husband and I decided that she’s a child first and the Down syndrome is secondary,” Sandi Holmgren said. “We never said that she can’t do this because she has Down syndrome; instead we asked, ‘Why not?’ ”

Around the world, a movement is gaining steam; one that not only accepts individuals diagnosed with Down syndrome, but pushes the boundaries of what was once thought unachievable.

Mikayla Holmgren is competing in a statewide pageant; Guatemalan clothing designer, Isabella Springmühl, was the first person with Down syndrome to showcase designs at London Fashion Week; model and designer, Madeline Stuart, launched her personal clothing line at New York Fashion Week last February; Melissa Reilly is a gold medal-winning Special Olympian; Angela Bachiller is a councilwoman in Spain; Tim Harris owns his own restaurant and recently started a nonprofit; Michael Johnson is a folk artist; Christian Royal makes and designs gorgeous pottery.

Those mentioned above are simply some of the more well-known individuals who haven’t allowed their Down syndrome diagnosis to hold them back. There are many others who hold down steady jobs, live on their own, and enjoy life to the fullest. Yes, some are debilitated by their condition and must be taken care of by a parent or guardian – but this doesn’t lessen their intrinsic value as human beings.

Alongside this developing movement celebrating the humanity of those with Down syndrome is a chilling counter-movement which seeks to terminate infants prenatally diagnosed with the condition.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute cites a recent study by Gert de Graaf, Frank Buckley, and Brian Skotko, which concludes:

… it is estimated that abortion following a prenatal diagnosis of [Down syndrome] results in a 30% reduction in overall [Down syndrome] births. Jamie Natoli, et al., proposed another statistic that correlates well with this study. In a 2012 publication in Prenatal Diagnosis, their research calculated a weighted mean across the U.S. of a 67% termination rate following prenatal diagnosis.

Such studies are necessary in order to capture an estimated figure because the United States doesn’t keep track of abortions that result from a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Other nations do, however. According to the National Down Syndrome Cytogenetic Register (NDSCR), in the U.K., approximately 90% of infants prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are terminated. In Iceland, the figure is a staggering 100%.

We (in the United States, the U.K., and elsewhere) are encouraging women to abort human beings because they have a mental disability. Mild to severe – it doesn’t matter. This is known as eugenics, and it’s not simply a choice, it’s an act of evil.

Individuals with Down syndrome, whether they walk down a runway or need daily care, are worthy of life. To suggest otherwise is to look these people in the eye, and tell them their lives are without merit. Try telling that to Mikayla Holmgren. Better yet, think about telling that to someone in your life who has Down syndrome, or loves someone who does.



Pine bark extract improves blood vessel health, heals psoriasis and hemorrhoids

(NaturalNews) One of the most powerful natural substances for increasing blood flow, clearing arterial plaque, and improving blood vessel health comes from a ubiquitous evergreen tree native to Europe. Three new studies on extract taken from the bark of the French maritime pine tree — this extract is often sold under the brand name Pycnogenol — reveal that this powerful natural substance is capable of healing a variety of blood-related diseases, including psoriasis and hemorrhoids.
Pine bark
In Italy, researchers at Chieti-Pescara University found that in patients with plaque psoriasis, supplementing with 150 milligrams (mg) of pine bark extract daily for three months resulted in significant improvements compared to a control group receiving conventional treatment. Among those taking the extract, researchers observed significantly higher skin water content and reduced symptoms, including erythema, induration, and desquamation.

Pine bark extract promotes faster healing at lower cost

Compared to the controls, the pine bark group experienced 32 percent increased healing times, as well as a 36 percent reduction in treatment costs — pine bark extract is extremely affordable, it turns out. Those who experienced the most relief from pine bark extract, however, were those patients with more extreme forms of plaque psoriasis, demonstrating the favorable efficacy of this natural substance.

In a separate study at the same university, female patients with chronic hemorrhoids, which includes 3rd and 4th degree cases, experienced similar relief from taking the same 150 mg daily dose of pine bark extract over the course of six months instead of three. According to the findings, 75 percent of those who took the extract showed no more hemorrhoid symptoms at all, compared to only half of the control group that received standard treatments.

Like in the first study, patients with the worst hemorrhoid symptoms fared best from the pine bark treatment, with an astounding 70 percent of 4th degree hemorrhoid patients achieving symptom-free status at the conclusion of the study. This, compared to just 36 percent of those in the control group who received the best that conventional medicine has to offer.

Pine bark extract helps reduce cholesterol, control blood sugar, and maintain arterial health

In separate research looking at blood-related conditions and diseases, researchers observed that pine bark extract improves the flexibility of blood vessel walls while simultaneously clearing out plaque that can cause reduced flow or blockages. This was discovered after testing the 150 mg daily dosage of pine bark extract on a group of 93 patients with blood- or artery-related disorders.

After two months of treatment with the extract, the patients, who suffered from either high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, or blood sugar problems, experienced an average 54 percent increase in blood flow. And after three months on the protocol, average blood flows increased by more than 66 percent.

What pine bark extract appears to do is reduce the oxidative stress that lead to the formation of circulatory and blood disorders in the first place. You can think of it kind of like the drains and piping in your house — when gunk builds up over time causing blockages, it is necessary to dissolve these blockages with a drain rooter or dissolving agent. In this case, pine bark extract is the dissolving agent.

“Oxidative stress has been linked to artery plaque and high LDL-cholesterol, as lipid peroxidation converts low-density lipoproteins to free radicals, which damage our blood vessel walls,” explains GreenMedInfo. “Other research has found pine bark extract significantly neutralizes free radicals within the body.”







7-Day Sugar Detox Menu Plan and Lose 30 lbs-Weight Loss Program

At this point, it is a well-known fact that sugar is highly detrimental to the overall health. As a matter of fact, indulging in sweets like cakes or ingesting ‘hidden sugars’ in products like low-fat yogurt, can lead to energy crashes, wrinkles, and weight gain.

“If you can’t get going in the morning without a sugary coffee, need a treat to boost your energy in the afternoon and have tried and failed to cut down on eating carbs, then you could be a sugar addict.”

Image result for 7-Day Sugar Detox Menu Plan and Lose 30 lbs

Here are some of the major reasons why you should stay away from sugar at all costs. Check them out!

  • It provides ’empty calories’ with no nutritional value whatsoever
  • It increases the risk for diabetes
  • It depletes your body of minerals
  • It depletes you of energy
  • It contributes to heart problems
  • It may cause cancer
  • It may cause premature aging
  • It contributes to eczema
  • It may cause arthritis
  • It causes hypoglycemia
  • It weakens the eyesight
  • It contributes to ulcers
  • It contributes to adrenal fatigue
  • It suppresses the immune system
  • It may cause gallstones
  • It raises serotonin levels
  • It is highly addictive!

Sugar Detox Menu for 7 Days

  • Breakfast: Cheesy spinach baked eggs
  • Mid-morning snack: Tamari almonds
  • Lunch: Green salad and low-carb cheesy sweet pepper peppers
  • Dinner: Cucumber tomato feta salad with baked stuffed chicken & spinach
  • Snack: Low-fat ricotta cheese, ¼ cup part skim, a few drops vanilla stevia, and ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Breakfast: Sun-dried tomato feta frittata
  • Mid-morning snack: Tamari almonds
  • Lunch: Chicken& pepper peppers & spinach
  • Afternoon snack: Spinach dip with raw veggies
  • Dinner: Turkey lettuce cups, mushrooms, peppers, and sautéed spinach
  • Snack: A cheese stick
  • Breakfast: Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie
  • Mid-Morning Snack: Three hard boiled eggs, yolks removed
  • Lunch: Leftover Turkey Lettuce Cups along with mixed green salad with cucumber, sweet peppers, tomatoes, dressed with extra virgin olive oil AND vinegar
  • Afternoon Snack: Feta frittata
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken with fresh herbs with light vegetable soup
  • Snack: Dairy free sugar-free vanilla chia pudding
  • Breakfast: Sante Fe Frittata’s
  • Mid-Morning Snack: A cheese stick
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken made into cilantro chicken salad
  • Afternoon Snack: Sugar-free peanut butter on celery
  • Dinner: Crock Pot Chicken & Bean Stew and Mini Zucchini cheese bites
  • Snack: Half a cup low fat cottage cheese topped with cucumber slices
  • Breakfast: Sante Fe Frittata’s
  • Mid Morning Snack: Spicy Mediterranean feta dip with raw veggies
  • Lunch: Soup, Green salad with cucumber, tomatoes, sweet peppers, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar
  • Afternoon Snack: cucumber tomato feta salad
  • Dinner: Italian green bean salad with low carb cheesy bread Sticks
  • Snack: Dairy free sugar-free vanilla chia pudding
  • Breakfast: Crustless Egg Muffin
  • Mid Morning Snack: Half a cup cottage cheese or ricotta with ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, vanilla stevia
  • Lunch: Cheesy bread sticks and green bean salad
  • Afternoon Snack: Raw veggies and spicy Mediterranean dip
  • Dinner: Zucchini noodles and garlic lemon chicken drumsticks
  • Snack: Three hard boiled eggs, yolks removed
  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with sauteed spinach and mushrooms
  • Mid Morning Snack: Half a cup cottage cheese
  • Lunch: Light vegetable soup and zucchini noodles
  • Afternoon Snack: Tamari Almonds
  • Dinner: Chicken drumsticks and leftover green bean salad
  • Snack: Dairy free sugar-free vanilla chia pudding



7-Day Sugar Detox Menu Plan and Lose 30 lbs


When Anger Is a Hidden Sign of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Woman holding her face in her hands

When people ask me what I have done to hurt myself I want to make up some really cool story to tell them instead of the truth. The truth is that I hurt myself by just sleeping wrong, by reaching up in the cupboard to get a cup, by braiding my hair, etc. I hurt myself daily because Ehlers-Danlos syndrome means that my joints are weak and pop out of their own volition. Sometimes I hurt myself worse than others. I have already had three surgeries on my shoulders (two on my right, one on my left) to repair and stabilize them from previous times I moved the wrong way, in fact the last surgery I had for this was in July of 2016. It hasn’t even been a year and I have hurt myself seriously again, this time my left shoulder. As I am writing this I am in excruciating pain, pain that is a step above the pain I feel on a daily basis. I have a high pain tolerance, but when I injure myself like this the pain becomes nearly unbearable.

I am writing this because it honestly makes me so angry. I am angry at my own body for being so fragile and I am angry with life for dealing me these horrible cards. The anger I have boils inside me because I do not have anything to direct it at. The pain brings me to tears, but so does this rage I feel. I am tired of having to go through things like this, of having to see doctors and of having surgery. I am tired of the doctors always being baffled, of looking at me like I am a complete mystery. I am only 25 years old, but Ehlers-Danlos syndrome makes me feel like I have lived a long, agonizing life already and when I think of the pain I will feel in years to come a new anger and dread fills my head. I know I am not the only one who feels this way, I know that there are many other people with various chronic illnesses who are as angry and upset as I am.

When I feel this way I know that I often direct my anger towards those I love the most. I become irritable and yell at people (or my pets) when they didn’t do anything wrong, but sometimes I just can’t take the pain. What do I do with this rage, how do I blow off steam before I explode in a fury of tears and unwarranted cursing? For me I write. When I feel like this I grab a pen and paper and pour all of these horrible feelings onto the page. I write poetry that tells the world how I feel and what it is like living with a chronic illness. I also paint or do other creative activities. I find that this is the best way for me to blow off some of this steam. It is different for everyone, but I truly hope that everyone who feels the way I do right now can find an activity or hobby that can help them to deal with the floating anger that comes with chronic illness.

I write this now because I want to get some anger out of my system, but I also write because I want other people who don’t have a chronic illness, people whose bodies don’t fail them, to understand what it is like for those of us who deal with this type of anger and pain day in and day out. I write this because maybe someone has a loved one with a chronic illness, perhaps Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, who is going through this despair and they do not quite grasp the situation. It is my hope that maybe by reading this they can begin to understand.

I think the best thing to do for someone who feels this type of anger is to let them express it and maybe help them find a viable way for them to blow off some steam. It is also important to understand that when we sound irritable towards someone or yell or curse, it likely has nothing to do with them and everything to do with they desperation we are feeling. So although it might not be pleasant to be around someone who feels the way I do right now, it is important not to take anything that is said personally. We need our loved ones to be the solid ground in the middle of an ocean of rage and pain.



Nonconformity and Freethinking Now Considered Mental Illnesses

Is nonconformity and freethinking a mental illness? According to the newest addition of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it certainly is. The manual identifies a new mental illness called “oppositional defiant disorder” or ODD. Defined as an “ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior,” symptoms include questioning authority, negativity, defiance, argumentativeness, and being easily annoyed.


The DSM-IV is the manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental illnesses and, with each new edition, there are scores of new mental illnesses. Are we becoming sicker? Is it getting harder to be mentally healthy? Authors of the DSM-IV say that it’s because they’re better able to identify these illnesses today. Critics charge that it’s because they have too much time on their hands.

New mental illnesses identified by the DSM-IV include arrogance, narcissism, above-average creativity, cynicism, and antisocial behavior. In the past, these were called “personality traits,” but now they’re diseases.

And there are treatments available.

All of this is a symptom of our over-diagnosing and overmedicating culture. In the last 50 years, the DSM-IV has gone from 130 to 357 mental illnesses. A majority of these illnesses afflict children. Although the manual is an important diagnostic tool for the psychiatric industry, it has also been responsible for social changes. The rise in ADD, bipolar disorder, and depression in children has been largely because of the manual’s identifying certain behaviors as symptoms. A Washington Post article observed that, if Mozart were born today, he would be diagnosed with ADD and “medicated into barren normality.”

According to the DSM-IV, the diagnosis guidelines for identifying oppositional defiant disorder are for children, but adults can just as easily suffer from the disease. This should give any freethinking American reason for worry.

The Soviet Union used new “mental illnesses” for political repression.  People who didn’t accept the beliefs of the Communist Party developed a new type of schizophrenia. They suffered from the delusion of believing communism was wrong.  They were isolated, forcefully medicated, and put through repressive “therapy” to bring them back to sanity.

When the last edition of the DSM-IV was published, identifying the symptoms of various mental illnesses in children, there was a jump in the diagnosis and medication of children. Some states have laws that allow protective agencies to forcibly medicate, and even make it a punishable crime to withhold medication.  This paints a chilling picture for those of us who are nonconformists.

Although the authors of the manual claim no ulterior motives but simply better diagnostic practices, the labeling of freethinking and nonconformity as mental illnesses has a lot of potential for abuse. It can easily become a weapon in the arsenal of a repressive state.

Source: “Is Free Thinking A Mental Illness?,” from offthegridnews.com


5 Juice Recipes to Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

If you are living with arthritis, there is little that you take for granted. Like getting a good night’s sleep or brushing your teeth, buttoning your pants, tying your shoes… holding your loved ones hand. The acute pain brought on by inflammation of the joints, known as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), is debilitating. The effects, if left untreated, can leave you feeling depressed and isolated.

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But you are NOT alone!

1.3 million Americans are affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis. Though it is still unclear as to the actual cause, RA is an autoimmune disease. Your body’s cells mistake your own proteins as  foreign intruders. Immune cells – called lymphocytes – react to this “intruder”, causing the release of cytokines. Cytokines are like chemical messengers that trigger more inflammation and destruction, which affects the synovial capsule and surrounding tissue, causing inflammation. Over time, the chronic inflammation leads to joint damage and deformities, fatigue, loss of appetite and stiffness.

Though there is no cure for RA, there are ways you can make the side-effects less severe. As with most diseases that cause inflammation, a change in diet along with daily exercise is a great start! And adding a juice regimen will help you get back on track to living a normal life.

The following 5 recipes are easy to make with ingredients you can find in your local supermarket. They’re healing and delicious!


Understand that proper nutrition is vital, even if you are in optimal health. If you are seeking medical attention for your RA symptoms, discuss your plans to include a juicing regimen with your doctor before you begin. 

If you are new to juicing and do not own a juicer, DO NOT be overwhelmed by all of the choices. First, decide if you want a centrifugal (most common, high-speed juicer, creates heat which weakens the quality of the juice, quick cleanup, effectively juices wide range of produce except wheatgrass) or a masticating juicer (slower speed, higher quality juice, juices wheatgrass, quieter motor, additional attachments for smoothies, nut butters).

Once you have your juicer – clear out some space in your fridge for produce. I suggest you make the space by getting rid of foods that are highly processed and high in sugar. You may even want to try an elimination diet.

An Elimination Diet is just like it sounds. You remove certain foods from your diet for 3-4 weeks and then slowly begin to introduce the foods back, one at a time. The ones that aggravate your RA or your gut, you know to avoid. Start removing foods that are known to cause inflammation: dairy, red meat, gluten, soy, corn and nightshade vegetables (tomato, potato, mushrooms, eggplants, peppers).

Toxins in our environment and in our food supply can also increase inflammation and it is best to go organic when available. Refer to the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list to know which conventional foods contain the highest amount of toxins and which are the cleanest choices.


Benefits of juicing can be noticed immediately. More energy, heightened sense of awareness and mental clarity, digestive regularity, just to name a few. Inflammation and relief from pain associated with RA can take upwards of 6 weeks before you begin to feel noticeable differences. Be patient and be consistent!


The following are recipes that are high in antioxidants, Vitamin C and Beta Carotene. They are proven to help your body decrease inflammation and make you feel awesome! An extra bonus – juicing daily helps to rehydrate skin, making you look younger, brighter and more refreshed. If that doesn’t sell you alone, then keep reading!

Author: Caroline Cosgrove
  • Basil – 3 sprigs
  • Blueberries – 1.5 cups
  • Lime – ½
  • Cayenne Pepper – 1 dash
  • Watermelon – 5 cups
  1. Prepare everything.
  2. Add every ingredient into the blender.
  3. Transfer to a clean, glass container.
  4. Drink and enjoy!
Watermelon is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse because of its high content of beta carotene and vitamin C. Add the antioxidants in the superfood, blueberries and you have a “mocktail” that is sure to get you feeling and looking your best in no time.


Author: Caroline Cosgrove
  • Apple – 2
  • Celery – 3 stalks
  • Carrot – 3
  • Lemon – 2 peeled
  • Ginger Root – 1 inch knob, peeled
  • Pear – 2
  • Turmeric Root – 4 inch, fresh root
  1. Prepare every ingredient.
  2. Add everything into the juicer. (Note: Peeling is not needed when using organic produce)
  3. Add everything to the juicer, extracting the juices properly.
  4. Transfer to a clean, glass container.
  5. Drink and enjoy!
Unlike the tequila sunrise, this is one you can drink and feel good about in the morning! Ginger is a well known anti-inflammatory, as is turmeric. But so is pear. Combine the effects of Vitamin C and Beta Carotene, this concoction will have you running off into the sunset, feeling like a million bucks!



Author: Caroline Cosgrove
  • Apples – 3
  • Celery – 4 stalks
  • Ginger – ¼ inch knob, peeled
  • Lemon (with rind)
  • Orange – 1 peeled
  • Spinach – 5 handfuls
  1. Prepare every ingredient.
  2. Add everything into the juicer. (Note: Peeling is not needed when using organic produce)
  3. Add everything to the juicer, extracting the juices properly.
  4. Transfer to a clean, glass container.
  5. Drink and enjoy!
Delicious blend of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory goodness in every drop. This drink is perfect for newbies who are looking for baby steps.



Author: Caroline Cogrove
  • Blueberries – 1 cup
  • Kiwifruit – 2 cups
  • Peppermint – 30 leaves
  • Strawberry – 1 cup
  1. Prepare everything.
  2. Add every ingredient into the blender.
  3. Transfer to a clean, glass container.
  4. Drink and enjoy!
Not only is this drink the perfect thing for an afternoon in the sun, the antioxidant power of blueberries combines with Anthocyanidin, a flavonoid in strawberries, which is a very powerful protector against inflammation.



Author: Caroline Cosgrove
  • Apples – 2
  • Red cabbage – 2 ¼ head
  • Carrots – 4
  • Ginger Root – ½ inch knob, peeled
  • Lemon – 1
  • Spinach – 4 handfuls
  1. Wash and prep all ingredients; feed into your juicer and enjoy!
What makes this the perfect juice is the combination of anti-inflammatory power of ginger, the Vitamin C in lemon, Beta Carotene in carrots and the high-alkalinity property of spinach. It also juices to a beautiful hue of magenta.

*Adding a high, quality blend of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, such as fish oil, to the above juices will add an extra punch of support against inflammation. Look for high quality blends that contain 3 grams of both DHA and EPA. There are vegan formulas, which are also highly effective if you require a plant-based diet.


Caroline Cosgrove

Certified Holistic Health Coach, Online Fitness Coach and Founderat New Beginnings Health and Fitness Coaching
Caroline Cosgrove is the founder of New Beginnings Health and Fitness Coaching, focusing on raising awareness of the health effects caused by the Standard American Diet. A Certified Holistic Health Coach and Online Fitness Coach, she educates her clients on the importance of creating a healthy, happy and balanced life, focused on exercise and nutrition. Her programs consist of both group and individual education, as well as children’s nutrition education.

Caroline is the mother of a healthy and happy 5-year-old girl, Sienna. Together, they are currently working to bring an organic vegetable garden to the school and to create a healthier school lunch program.