"Born This Way," the critically acclaimed docu-series from A&E, returns with ten new episodes on July 26 and will continue to break down the stigma associated with Down syndrome.
The reality show centers around seven young adults living in California, all of whom were born with Down syndrome. Viewers are given an in-depth look at each individual as they follow their unique passions and lifelong dreams, whether it's singing, acting, or starting a small business. Throughout the season, they grow in their friendships and romantic relationships - all while defying society's expectations.
One of the stars of the show is John, an aspiring musician who constantly entertains his friends and family. In one particularly heartwarming scene, John shares with his friends how doctors offered his mother the option of an abortion when they informed her that her baby would be a boy with Down syndrome.
"[Before] I was born, the doctors told my mom that I'll be Down syndrome and so the doctors asked her if she wanted to have an abortion of me," John says.
The show then cuts to John's mother, Joyce. "When I found out from the doctors at the amniocentesis," she says, "they first said it was a boy. They then said Down syndrome. 'Don't expect a lot. He will never be an asset to society. He will never be a productive citizen.' Those are the words they tell you -- you know, all negative. I just said, No, John is gonna be my child. I will take care of him. He has Down syndrome, but it's not gonna limit him."
The scene cuts back to John, who says, "Even though I'm Down syndrome, it didn't really matter, because my mother, she said, 'No, I'm gonna keep this child, this is my son we're actually talking about.' And she sacrificed and she kept me. I could be out there dead."
John then encourages his friends: "Your parents had gave birth to you, they wanted you as their own child. They love you, they care for you, and everything that you have now is very special."
He adds, "I'm here. I'm alive. I'm human. And that's what we need to know. We're all humans. We have to like, just, stick together and stay together and be the person that we are, cause that's what God made us to be."
According to the U.S. Census, one in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, making Down syndrome the most common genetic condition. Approximately 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome, and about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year.
Many studies have shown that people with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, can work successfully and live relatively independently. Sadly, 70 percent of working-age people with disabilities are not working - even though most of them want jobs and independence.
Sandra McElwee, mother of "Born This Way" star Sean, encouraged the faith-based community to help change these statistics by extending job opportunities to people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"Hopefully this show is taking away the fear that people with Down Syndrome are different," she recently told The Gospel Herald. "I hope it shows the world that they're not different - they're just like everyone else, they have hopes and dreams and desires, and they're actually pretty fun people to be around."