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Heil Harvard!

A&E’s ‘Born This Way’ Will Shatter Your Preconceived Notions About Down Syndrome

A&E’s “Born This Way” reality show follows the lives of 10 young adults as they deal with everyday challenges such as family drama, new roommates, and the complications that come with dating and marriage.


They just all happen to have Down syndrome.

“Born This Way,” airing its second season Tuesday night, proves that these young adults are more than their disorder. That, said Sandra McElwee, one of the moms featured on the show, was the parents’ and producers’ most important goal.

“The biggest limitations Sean experiences is other people’s perceptions,” McElwee explained in an interview with Townhall. “In the beginning, that’s his biggest disability.”

Sean had always been an independent thinker, she noted. Before joining the show, he even liked referring to himself as a “ladies man.” Yet, McElwee says her son has gained even more confidence from being a reality TV star.

“Pretty much everywhere he goes he’s recognized now,” McElwee said. “We were just on vacation out of the country and he was recognized several times. He just thinks that’s the way it should be. He has no fear. He can stand up in front of hundreds of people and speak with no problem whatsoever.”

That doesn’t mean McElwee wasn’t hesitant at first for her son to join the cast.

“I’d seen enough reality shows to see how they can turn them into a train wreck and it can be just one big drama and they can twist things around and create sentences that didn’t actually happen,” she said. “But I had this feeling that this show could be a game changer for people with Down syndrome.”

The majority of the population, McElwee added, don’t know anyone with Down syndrome. Now they know seven -soon to be 10 - people with Down syndrome they’d never known before.


“Knowing people and knowing their lives and seeing they’re just like everyone else takes away from the fear and when you take away the fear it opens up doors,” she said.

In watching the show, you find that the parents have opportunities to celebrate unique milestones in their children’s lives.

“When Sean was 3 years old, we were at a festival and there was a children’s singing and dancing group performing and he looked at me and pointed to himself and pointed toward the stage and said, ‘Me do that.’ And that was his first 3-word sentence and I thought, wow, we’ve got a 3-word sentence out I better support his dreams. So I signed him up for the group. Most parents would’ve said, I’m not going to sign my kid up for a singing group when he can’t even sing. But I decided to support his dreams. He’s just really been very vocal about what he wants to do and we support him.”

Down syndrome, these parents insist, “is going to play a minor part in their lives.”

Watch the trailer for “Born This Way’s” season two, airing on A&E Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET.

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