Viral Down Syndrome Day ad challenges stereotypes: ‘Assume that I can so maybe I will’


In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day 2024 on Thursday, one viral ad campaign is seeking to “end the stereotypes” of people with Down syndrome, serving as a powerful reminder against diminishing the wants, needs, and potential of people with disabilities, however well-meaning we might try to be.

The 90-second clip features Canadian model and actress Madison Tevlin in a variety of scenarios: she’s being served a soda instead of the margarita she ordered, she’s being discouraged from living on her own by her parents, her teacher is teaching nursery rhymes in lieu of the Shakespeare she’d like to learn, and her trainer isn’t pushing her to throw stronger punches. The message: “Your assumption becomes reality.”

“Hey bartender, you assume that I can’t drink a margarita so you don’t serve me a margarita so I don’t drink a margarita,” she says in the video. “Your assumption becomes reality.”

Later in the clip, the 22-year-old can be seen enjoying her margarita, learning Shakespeare, and happily moving in with friends, among other standard rites of passage that adults without disabilities get to experience without being patronized or infantilized.

Several organizations—including Italy’s CoorDown, the National Down Syndrome Society in the U.S., the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, and others—teamed up to produce the poignant ad, which was inspired by a speech given by Marta Sodano, a 29-year-old Italian woman with Down syndrome.

According to a press release issued by the NDSS, Sodano spoke during the World Down Syndrome Day Conference at the United Nations, reminding attendees about the ripple effects of making assumptions based on stereotypes, biases, and prejudices.

“I discovered that in psychology there is a concept called ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’ whereby a teacher who thinks that a student cannot understand would just act accordingly and therefore they would not teach the student,” said Sodano in her speech. “And there you go: the prophecy self-fulfills. But in my opinion, there are no difficult or easy concepts, there is always a simple way to explain things. If I think of all the things that were not explained and taught to me, well I really get angry.”

Of course, it should go without saying that people with disabilities deserve just as much autonomy as anyone else… but it seems some still need a little reminder. Tevlin summed it up perfectly, telling CBS News: “I have Down syndrome and it’s the least interesting thing about me. It’s a part of who I am, but it’s not all of me.”





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