Intellectual disability highlighted in March

2018-03-21 06:00
Tom Smith is an active member of the Down Syndrome Association of the Eastern Cape.      Photo:SUPPLIED

Tom Smith is an active member of the Down Syndrome Association of the Eastern Cape. Photo:SUPPLIED

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MARCH is national awareness month for intellectual disability and with the theme “The Right to Employment” Port Elizabeth Mental Health is encouraging the community to embrace those with disabilities in the working environment.

Merle Blunden, manager: social work services at Port Elizabeth Mental Health said Tom Smith (22) is a sterling example of being able to live a full life, despite his diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

“Intellectual disability is often misunderstood – and as a result – Tom and many others are denied opportunities. “Tom leads a full and balanced life – attending gym with a personal trainer twice weekly and swimming. He is passionate about his girlfriend, his X-box and mountain bike trails. He donates blood regularly in a bid to do good for his community. He pursues interesting hobbies, such as bee-keeping and attends the starfish social club monthly. And, his mother tells us he does all his chores at home with no complaints,” Blunden said.

Tom and his parents are active members of the Down Syndrome Association of the Eastern Cape, and Tom was recently chosen to represent the Eastern Cape at a Self Advocacy Symposium held in Pretoria in March – where the focus was on ensuring access to basic rights.

Blunden said it’s important to highlight Tom’s story. “Just like you and me, Tom would love to be gainfully employed and make a meaningful contribution within his community. He has previously worked as a waitron/runner at Cappellini’s and has recently completed two years of work experience at the Connyngham Coffee Shop – where he has learned more about the hospitality sector,” Blunden said.

“We at Port Elizabeth Mental Health encourage everyone to look beyond the disability to see the abilities that Tom and many others have.”

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