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Down syndrome and disability: findings ways to cope

The odds tend to be stacked against people with Down syndrome. After all, they are facing a genetic disorder that often causes learning disabilities in children and results in mental retardation in varying degrees. There are also a variety of other potential complications, including greatly reduced life expectancy.

But the story of Judith Scott, a widely exhibited artist, shows how much someone with Down syndrome can accomplish, with perseverance and proper support.

In 1950, at age seven, Scott was made a ward of the state due to Down syndrome and put in a state institution. To make matters worse, she became deaf after suffering from scarlet fever. And the years of institutionalization stretched on and on.

But Judy did not die. Instead, after Judy had spent 35 years in a state institution in Ohio, her twin sister Joyce, who does not have Down syndrome, arranged to become Judy's guardian.

Joyce got Judy moved to Berkeley, California and got her enrolled in art classes. After trying painting and several other forms, Judy turned out to be interested in fiber arts. She found a passion for it and worked at is diligently for 18 years.

The work found an audience and Judith Scott became the first artist with Down syndrome to have work featured in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Her work is also displayed in other prominent museums and has inspired numerous books and documentary films.

To be sure, not all people with Down syndrome beat the odds like Judith Scott. That is why Down syndrome is on the list of conditions that may make a child eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, if the condition is determined to be disabling.

It is also possible that adults whose disability due to Down syndrome began before age 22 may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The Social Security Administration considers this to be a "child" benefit because a parent's Social Security earnings record is required for it.

Source: "Where Great Art Transcends Disability," the Atlantic Amelia Rachel Hokulea Borofsky, 12-13-12

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our page on Supplemental Security Income.

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