Driven to Succeed
It’s been nearly 15 years since Jasmin’s first CHOP Buddy Walk®, but her mom Miriam remembers it like it was yesterday. “It was the first time she ever walked on her own,” says Miriam, tearing up at the memory.
Jasmin was born with Down syndrome, and like many children with the chromosomal disorder, she had very low muscle tone — making it harder for her to crawl, stand and walk. With the help of early intervention services and the Trisomy 21 Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Jasmin steadily grew stronger.
She was nearly 18 months old when her family brought her to her first CHOP Buddy Walk® and Family Fun Day, a celebratory annual event that supports breakthrough care and brighter futures for individuals with Down syndrome. Miriam and Miguel brought their daughter to the event to support her and connect with other families.
A key part of the event is a celebratory lap around the track at Villanova University Stadium. When Jasmin saw adults and other children like her walking, she “stood up and started walking,” Miriam says. Her family was amazed and cheered to mark the milestone.
“She fell a few times, but she kept getting up — over and over again — and she kept going,” Miriam says. “She was so proud of herself — and we were so proud of her.”
An independent spirit
Jasmin’s determination and “can-do” spirit has been a constant in her life — along with the love and support of her family. Now 16 years old and in 10th grade, Jasmin isn’t content to let others do things for her. She wants to do them on her own.
Whether it’s brushing her teeth, doing her math homework or practicing for a dance recital, Jasmin is driven to succeed. It may take her longer to get a routine right, but she’s willing to put in the extra effort, her mom says.
“I hear her sometimes in her room when she’s doing homework and gets something wrong,” Miriam says. “Instead of getting frustrated or quitting, she steadies herself and talks herself through it. ‘It’s OK,’ she’ll say to herself. ‘Try again.’ And she does. She keeps trying. It amazes me how self-sufficient and self-motivating she is. She believes she can … and she does it.”
Comprehensive care at T21 Clinic
Jasmin has been overcoming odds since she was born prematurely weighing only 5 pounds. Diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, Jasmin was also found to have a gastrointestinal issue that required surgery nine days after she was born, and she will need lifelong medication for hypothyroidism.
“Overall, she’s been pretty healthy,” Miriam says. “We’ve been lucky.”
Jasmin has been a patient at the Trisomy 21 Clinic at CHOP since she was 5 years old. The comprehensive, multidisciplinary program evaluates, treats and manages the emotional, behavioral, developmental and neurologic health needs of children and adults with Down syndrome.
The program helped Jasmin’s family connect with Early Intervention services when Jasmin was young, and oversaw her care throughout her school years. When Jasmin had bone issues with her big toes (the bones were twisted inside), the T21 team connected her family with a local orthopaedic surgeon nearby. Jasmin’s orthopedic care is now overseen by Richard S. Davidson, MD.
Jasmin sees Mary Pipan, MD, director of the Trisomy 21 Program, annually to monitor her growth and development and address any new issues that come up.
Enjoying an active lifestyle
While Jasmin’s life is pretty full with school and family, she’s always looking for something new and fun to get involved with. When her niece began taking dance classes in the neighborhood, Jasmin wanted to participate, too.
“I talked to the owner and we decided to give it a try,” Miriam says. “It’s been really good for her. She gets distracted easily, but the dancing is helping her learn to concentrate, follow directions and work as part of a group. She really enjoyed being part of the ballet recital in May.”
Jasmin also competes in the Special Olympics for bowling and gymnastics. She loves using ribbons, hula hoops and balls in her routines.
But one of the most exciting opportunities Jasmin has had was participating in the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade on Jan. 1, 2018. A group called Santino’s Dragons organized a group of kids with autism, Down syndrome, developmental delays and other conditions to march in the parade under the Murray Comic Club.
“Jasmin loved it,” Miriam says. “Before, she didn’t like a lot of people and loud noises. But since she marched with Santino, the fears she had before don’t bother her. And she formed some great friendships.”
Jasmin enjoys attending public school in Philadelphia, near her family’s home, and is in her school’s life skills program. She takes math, English and other classes. Her parents are hopeful they can transition her to a specialized program that offers employment training and that she’ll continue to find joy in her everyday life.
“I’m not sure what job she’ll do in the future, but she could work in a daycare or in a supermarket,” Miriam says. “She’s very loving and caring with younger children and she likes to fix the shelves at the supermarket when we go shopping.
“No matter what she does, I just want her to be happy, to feel fulfilled and to have a full life.”