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Down Syndrome is what I call a visible disability…as they see the person, they see the disability, and of course every preconceived notion presents itself. Something happened the other day that reminded me why it’s important for all of us to focus on the ability of a person and not the disability that they happen to have.

Focus on the Ability

shadeeza buckleyEvery year the Jamaica Down’s Syndrome Foundation (JDSF) hosts its charity concert and a dance troupe performs…all the members have DS. My sister, Shadeeza, is a part of the dance group. Every year Shadeeza looks forward to performing. This year (2019), she fell and hurt her right ankle approximately one week before the concert. The thought that she might not be able to recover in time devastated her. She saw the doctor. We ensured her ankle was iced, rubbed and elevated every day. We prayed for a miraculous recovery and she made sure that her foot was rested.

The day of the concert arrived and yes, she was on stage. She told me about two days before the concert that she was going to dance…we just needed to rub and wrap her ankle…but she was definitely going to dance. She gave an amazing performance.

Perseverance in the Midst of Disability

To my surprise, when she came off the stage and after a couple of group photos were taken, there were tears in her eyes and her face looked like it was about to erupt into what people would call an “ugly cry”. I asked her what’s wrong. She said she was in pain. I exclaimed, “You were in pain all this time and went up there and danced?”. She nodded yes.

I immediately found a chair, alerted our older sister who knows first aid and she got some ice for Shadeeza’s foot and took care of her ankle.

I expressed my shock, fear, anger…whatever it was, to my older sister at the fact that Shadeeza really went up there in pain and gave such a good performance, amidst her discomfort. My older sister’s response was “That’s what dancers do”. Right then and there I realized I was no dancer. I am sorry, but I was not going to go on any stage with my sprained ankle. Sorry, not sorry. My group would just have to dance without me.

We All Have Different Abilities

shadeeza buckley

This concert happened in March and I am still in awe of Shadeeza’s commitment and dedication. For the entire week that begun when she hurt her foot, I would encourage her whenever I would rub her ankle by saying to her “You are a STRONG woman. You are a BRAVE woman. You are a SMART woman”. She really is…she is one tough cookie. What I would call a mere performance, I guess she would call her duty, a fulfilment of her commitment to her friends or her simply doing what she loves…dancing. Her viewing this performance as a task that was set before her, one that she decided must be accomplished no matter what…shows maturity, reliability, integrity and a whole lot of guts.

Persons with Down Syndrome may not perform academically the way others do, but there are other aspects to life. How do you handle setbacks in life? Do you push through the way Shadeeza did? How do people see you in terms of your commitment and you keeping your word? Can you be depended on? Let’s respect each other and commend each other for our strengths. In terms of our weaknesses, let’s help each other to improve and be better…not tear each other down, disrespect each other and take away each other’s dignity. We are all human beings at the end of the day… different…but still human.

focus on the ability


  1. Wow! Something that sounds so simple is truly inspiring. I’m a full grown man and when I get even a sniffle of a cold, I know I underperform in every area. Shadeeza’s strength and determination to do what she loves – dance – even with an injured ankle, is more than what most people are willing to put themselves through. 
    I’m very glad that I came across this story today, it is actually very uplifting. 

    Thank you for sharing Shadeeza’s strength and passion and commitment! 

    1. Hi Mark,

      I am so happy Shadeeza’s story was a source of upliftment for you. May you recall her journey whenever you may be feeling down and may it encourage you to keep going.


  2. Very interesting and insightful piece. Wow! I wish I can be the next Shadeeza. What a relentless and determined fellow. Determination is always enhanced with passion to fight for success. I have quit a lot of businesses because I lacked the drive to push myself. I always focus on the risks and rejection, forgetting that every risk comes with an opportunity.

    shadeeza’s story just inspired me and I will keep remembering it whenever I’m down because if she can, I can too.

    thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Darrick,

      I am so happy Shadeeza’s story inspired you and encouraged you to keep pushing with your businesses. I wish you all the success in the world!


  3. First thank you for putting into words just how a lot of folks with disabilities feel. From my god son to my niece both with downs syndrome they are people not a disability. Years ago Ricki(my godson) his mom had to fight to keep him in a regular school,as all the teachers and special resource folk only saw his disability. Today with more and more knowledge that is becoming less of an issue especially with websites like yours that point out not the disability but the ability of individuals.

    the ability of individuals should be foremost NOT the disability! Awesome work hope you continue to be an advocate.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      Thank you for your kind words. I am happy to hear that things are getting better at school for your godson. My hope is that the day will come where persons with DS will be accommodated in society, i.e. schools will plan their curriculum with persons with DS in mind, universities will establish programs with people with DS in mind. Employment for persons with DS will be the norm. Untill then…we keep advocating.


  4. I have worked with people who have Down Syndrome, and I have a few friends with children who have DS.  They are truly the most beautiful people I know, and are constantly an example of how I should be living!  The determination your sister showed, going up to dance even when in pain, is such an inspiration 🙂

    1. Hi Melissa,

      Thank you for your kind words. Shadeeza’s level of maturity surprises me sometimes. I often think she’s teaching me more than I can ever teach her.


  5. Hi Alicia!
    I am really inspired and motivated with this brief and precise story of your sister. It is really an eye opener to maintain my integrity even when challenges come my way. I do give up at the sight of any discomfort or unpleasant feelings but Shadeeza really inspired me with what she did. I am really touched and have learnt something valuable in your article. This is really inspirational. I will have to share this article with my friends.

    1. Hi Felicity,

      Thank you for taking the time to visit HappyDowns. I am so happy you were inspired by Shadeeza. I hope that you will remember her story the next time you are feeling down or defeated and that it will help you to get back up and keep going.


  6. Hi Alicia, I have been trying to reply you with a good news before I got to see your post here again. Shadeeza’s story has helped me to overcome one of my obstacles in my affiliate business and I made a whooping sum of $1890 in a deal I had quit before I read shadeeza’s story. I was so happy that I just have to re-comment to show how grateful I am to the post you shared. I pushed through once and I made the bucks, now I will never give excuses a chance because I’m the new shadeeza…thanks

    1. WOW…just WOW. We have no words…just PURE JOY for you. Congratulations! Continue to push through. We are beyond happy that Shadeeza’s experience proved to be such a source of encouragement for you. Just fantastic!


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