We all need to be able to accept and understand those around us who are different, especially those who may have a physical or mental disability.
One girl who was born with Down syndrome is inspiring others—and doesn’t allow her condition to stand in the way of her dreams. She has a strong belief in herself, and has become an inspiration to many, becoming an accomplished public speaker and professional model along the way.
When Grace Strobel was born 22 years ago, her parents, Jeff and Linda, were informed she had Down syndrome—a genetic disorder that causes developmental and intellectual delays. Her parents were shocked when they were told, within a few hours of her birth, that little Grace would never learn to read or write—it was even suggested they place Grace in a special “institution” for the disabled.
Parents Jeff and Linda were told: “There is no shame in this at all,” reported STL Today. “[T]here are still institutions that will take her. Just take your time to think about it.”
Jeff and Linda were not prepared to take this advice lying down and instead set about helping Grace the best way they could.
After leaving the hospital with the shocking news, Jeff and Linda began Grace’s training regimen the minute they arrived home.
The duo became their baby daughter’s coach, tutor, and therapist as well as her loving parents. They invested all of their energy into helping their daughter become the best she could and be able to cope with life’s events and challenges.
Using obstacle courses, the pair helped Grace to first crawl, then eventually walk. By age 3, Linda would spend around four to five hours daily on Grace’s school work. Within two years, at age 5, she was able to memorize words and read, something experts had said was impossible.
When Grace was 8 years old, Jeff and Linda enrolled her in elementary school to work on her social skills while continuing with her homeschooling.
“I was on a mission. I didn’t care what other people said or did. I surrounded myself with like-minded people,” said Linda.
Although her familial environment was one of love, care, and understanding, there were outsiders who were cruel in their remarks towards Grace. When she was 20 years old and working as a volunteer at a school canteen, a group of children began taunting and ridiculing her—so mom Linda decided her help was needed and secured a speech coach for Grace.
She was soon able to give a presentation at Rockwood Valley Middle School, where she had been a student. With more than 120 students listening, she explained what Down syndrome was, the difficulties she experienced daily, and most importantly that the condition didn’t stop her from doing what she wanted.
Before long, she was asked if she wanted to become a keynote speaker at a Funding Futures event in Chicago, which raises money to fund Down syndrome research.
Grace continued to raise the bar, and in 2018, after a photographic shoot of her went viral on social media, she began modeling for St. Louis fashion designer Ola Hawatmeh at Fashion Week in Atlantic City, where she received plenty of applause. She is booked for Fashion Week in New York this fall.
Grace still gives public talks on Down syndrome and is hoping to help change the stigma towards those who suffer from the syndrome and other disabilities, thus paving possibilities and opportunities for them.
Showing kindness and respect to others is something we should all aspire to do—and help others by encouraging them to achieve the best they can.