Against the Odds

When Amanda was born with Down syndrome, doctors in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, where her family lived, predicted a bleak future for the little girl. That was more than 30 years ago.

Amanda has been defying the expectations ever since.

“By the time she was 3 months old, she was receiving in-home therapy intended to help develop key skills such as rolling over, sitting up and gross and fine motor skills,” said Amanda’s father David. “She made great progress at that early age and set the stage for what would be a life-long determination to achieve her goals.”

Today, Amanda, 31, who has been receiving services through Boone County Family Services since 2004, lives with her parents in Columbia. When David retired from the Air Force 10 years ago, the family settled here to be closer to Amanda’s only sibling, Jennifer. Since moving to Columbia, Amanda has worked at a video store where she received a five-year pin before the store went out of business.

However, despite her success in the work place, Amanda has remained shy and struggles to socialize and make friends on her own.

Leigh Ann Tillman, Amanda’s Support Coordinator at BCFR, thought pairing Amanda with a personal assistant might motivate her client to break out of her shell and become more independent.  She referred Amanda to Alternative Community Training (ACT), where she was matched with Jillian, a personal assistant.

  At first, Amanda resisted spending time with Jillian.

“She was rather standoffish when she first met Jillian,” David said. “In fact, for the first several sessions, Amanda didn’t really let down her guard and allow a relationship to develop.”

But Jillian persisted and eventually, Amanda was looking forward to her visits. Recently, Jillian suggested they volunteer at the public library, something Amanda had refused to do in the past with her parents. This time, Amanda agreed.

Another ice-breaking for the pair was Jillian’s miniature dachshund, Roggie. Today, Amanda can’t wait to see Roggie, but in the beginning, she refused to walk with the dog. Again, Jillian persisted.

“It only took one time for Amanda to fall in love with Roggie,” David said. “She now looks very much forward to their walks.”

Amanda has accomplished much over years, certainly far more than some expected. She received a solid education and built strong skills in reading, writing and math among other things. In fact, Amanda continues to be an avid reader and has completed the entire Harry Potter series. She also continues to write and is known for her poetic notes penned for family and friends.

Over the years, Amanda has been a regular participant in Special Olympics, competing in gymnastics, swimming, bowling, basketball, volleyball, golf and track and field. In 1999, she was selected to compete in gymnastics at the Special Olympics World Games in Raleigh, NC. Seven years later, Amanda won a gold medal in golf during the first ever Special Olympics National Games. Her sister Jennifer was her caddy.

Looking back on his daughter’s successes, David is hopeful that Amanda’s work with a personal assistant will help her explore new opportunities and once again, defy expectations.

“Amanda was a hard worker from the beginning and despite the odds,” he said, “Amanda has achieved many of the goals she set for herself as well as those set by others.”

 Amanda recently went on a zip-line adventure. It was raining, but she had a great time. Amanda tried zip lining last fall and loved it; so when she said she wanted to go again, she wasn’t going to let the rain stop her.

-David, Amanda’s father

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