22-Yr-Old With Down Syndrome Who Was Told Would Never Learn To Read Or Write Pursues Dream Of Becoming A Model

22-Yr-Old With Down Syndrome Who Was Told Would Never Learn To Read Or Write Pursues Dream Of Becoming A Model

Her counsellor earlier suggested that she be put in a professionally-run instituition as she would never learn to read, write, or lead a normal life.

Grace Strobel, from Wildwood, Missouri, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth. Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes intellectual and developmental delays. People who suffer severely from this genetic disorder find it hard to perform basic daily activities on their own. However, this 22-year-old girl is here to change the people's perception of the disorder as she pursues her dream of becoming a model. Grace Stroble gives public speeches on a regular regarding the condition in order to spread awareness and help people overcome stereotypes about Down Syndrome. Through these speeches, she hopes to not only change the societal stereotypes that people have but also create more opportunities for all those who suffer from such impairments. She aims at creating a change in society. There has been an increase in employment among the people with impairments however, there are still many industries that prefer not to hire them. 

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that is caused due to the presence of an extra chromosome. The disorder results in both, developmental and intellectual delays. Grace was born with the condition. When she was a child, the counselor told her parents, Linda and Jeff Strobel, that their daughter would face a lifetime of difficulties and that it would be a good option for them to place her in a professionally-run institution, as reported by STL Today. "There is no shame in this at all, there are still institutions that will take her," Jeff says the counselor said to them.


The couple was further informed that their daughter would never learn how to read or write. However, the couple did not get disheartened by the news. They instead took it up as a challenge to prove the counselor wrong. Linda began to work on building muscle and tone in Grace's neck as soon as she was brought back from the hospital. She even read up as much as she could about the disorder. She invested almost all of her time in Grace and started to homeschool the girl.


Jeff, a Navy veteran, and Linda moved to Wildwood when they had their second child, Laine. When Grace was three, Linda would spend around four to five hours every single day on school work with Grace. By the time Grace was five, she was able to read and had even started to memorize various words. She then shifted focus on helping Grace build her social skills. Linda and Jeff enrolled their daughter into an elementary school when Grace was eight-years-old. They believed that spending time with other students would help Grace in many ways.


"I was on a mission. I didn’t care what other people said or did. I surrounded myself with like-minded people," said Linda. However, Grace often had to be moved to different schools because Linda felt the level of education she was receiving wasn't substantial. Although she was made to move schools regularly, Grace was still homeschooled by Linda. Grace receives a lot of love and care from her family but not everyone is known to show kind patience towards her. Throughout her life, Grace has faced a lot of teasing and discrimination for her condition, especially from her peers.


Linda recalls a time during which Grace, who was 20-years-old at the time, was volunteering in a local kindergarten's canteen in 2017. A group of young students started to make fun of her one day because she was unable to open their juice boxes and packets of food. Linda believed that this negative attitude could be turned around and younger children need to be educated about various conditions and disorders that are present in the world. She hired a speech coach and arranged for Grace to give a presentation at Rockwood Valley Middle School, which she had attended, to young sixth-grade students. 


Over a hundred students attended the speech as Grace explained the disability and the cause of it, the results, and how she lives her life on a daily basis. She also explained that she was told that she would be unable even to tie her own shoes but she has come a long way since then. There are a number of ways in which the disorder has impacted her life but that did not stop her from doing what she truly wanted to do. After giving the speech, Grace booked several other talks at local schools. The now 22-year-old was asked to be the keynote speaker at a Funding Futures event in Chicago, which raises money for cognition research for people with the disability. 


During her speech, she explained how her parents were told that she would never really achieve much in life. "I'm here to tell you they were wrong,' she said. While doing her research for an upcoming speech, Grace came across a story about how a girl suffering from Down syndrome started a career as a model. This inspired Grace. When she asked Linda if she could try getting into the modeling business too, Linda simply told her that "anything is possible." 

During the summer of 2018, a photographer was hired for Grace, who took a few shots and uploaded them online. The series of photographs went viral and Linda soon received the contact for St. Louis fashion designer Ola Hawatmeh by a friend. She gave them a call and said, "My daughter has a dream to become a model." The designer told Linda that she would help make Grace's dreams come true. Grace was given catwalk lessons, dresses were designed especially for her and in February, she was brought in to talk during one of the shows at Fashion Week in Atlantic City. 

The audience gave Grace, who still volunteers in schools when she's not modeling, a round of applause as she walked in the finale of a show wearing a long white gown. Grace has now been invited to walk the ramp again at a show during the Fashion Week in New York this fall by the designer. The designer claims that she sees courage and beauty in the 22-year-old. Looks like the counselor was completely wrong as Grace is now a professional model who is able to carry out several complex activities in a day, all by herself. 


Recommended for you