Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Star Is Born?

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Star Is Born?

Article excerpt

For years I was aware of children with disabilities who had exceptional abilities ... those who could play an instrument, ice skate, do gymnastics, sing, read, or do math at an unbelievable level considering the odds against them. For years, I introduced all these activities, and more, to Blair, searching for his special talent -- the one thing that might bring joy, self-esteem and victory into his life. Today I find that his talent had been there for years, yet I wore my own prejudicial blinders and never really saw it. Blair wanted to be an actor and entertain others.

At four years old, Blair took his first bow. Completing a series of developmental tests with a psychologist, Blair turned to the observation wall (disguised as a mirror) and bowed to the "anonymous" clinicians seated in the next room. I had no idea that this simple bow was the beginning of Blair's passion.

The following year a school psychologist asked me if I had ever considered getting Blair into the entertainment field. I remember looking at the psychologist like he was crazy. How much work would be available for a five-year-old with Down syndrome? Later, as Blair was about to graduate from elementary school, another psychologist asked me if I had ever considered finding a way for Blair to pursue an acting career. My response was a little more positive this time. I said, "Sure, but how?" The psychologist had no answer -- it had just been a suggestion.

Special Olympic Runner

Blair was now a junior high student with a whole new world to become accustomed to. Little did we know that this new, special education school would offer a drama class. Blair was accepted into the class his first year and got to participate in the holiday program, A Charlie Brown Christmas. After all, Linus had to be a little guy to carry around a blanket and suck his thumb. What a great joy this was -- Blair was finally getting to act ! While Blair was busy learning his lines and we were putting together just the right costume for Linus, a very excited phone call came from our local Special Olympics office. Proctor and Gamble was casting a commercial and wanted a male Special Olympian, 10 to 12 years old, who could run. Special Olympics thought of Blair right away. Not only did Blair meet their requirements, but he also ran 400 meters, which meant he could endure the endless takes necessary to complete the few seconds of film that would be seen in the commercial. I decided to take Blair on the call.

The shoot was in a park not far from our home so it wasn't too intimidating. Twelve boys from the Southern California area interviewed that day. The casting company video taped each child running, turning and speaking briefly. Each had their own beautiful and special quality.

I came home and told my husband that I had no idea what they were looking for and didn't know when or if we would hear further. I was pleased to get a call-back for Blair. It meant one more adventure and even a little closer to home.

We went to a studio where commercials were being cast. Inside was a large (but crowded) waiting room for the hopeful actors. Around the room were several small audition studios filled with directors, producers, agency executives, corporation department heads and who knows who else. Several commercials were being cast -- one was for diapers, so there were lots of mom, dad and baby types. A dog food commercial was also being cast and there were big dogs to step over everywhere.

As we sat and sat and waited and waited, I got more and more irritable. Blair, on the other hand, was walking around making friends. He was very much at home in this new environment. I was just about to call it quits, get Blair and leave when the casting director called his name. Blair jumped up and ran in to take his turn. There I sat with the other parents whose more "professional" children had gone into various studios for their auditions. …

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