Student pushes for Down syndrome awareness

Glenbrook North junior Erin Mallicoat has dedicated her life to advocating for her peers with special needs. Most recently, Erin traveled to Springfield to help the Illinois Senate declare March 15, 2017 as Adult Down Syndrome Awareness Day.

About one in every 700 children is born with Down Syndrome in the United States. Erin faces personal challenges with Down syndrome, Turner syndrome and ADHD, but she has found her conditions to be something she can take great pride in. 

“I feel very proud to have a disability,” Erin said. “People with special needs are that much more unique. They’re creative in the way they do things.”

Erin recalled traveling to the White House when she was 10 years old to meet President Barack Obama and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“It was crazy,” she said. “I was announced as a future leader for the ADA.”

Erin said she enjoys helping other people with special needs, which is why the declaration of Adult Down Syndrome Awareness Day was important to her.

“People with disabilities are living longer and living more independently. I feel like that’s amazing,” she said. “It’s important that people with special needs get the support they need.”

Much of the support Erin finds in her personal life comes from her high school and Special Gifts Theatre, which she has participated in since age 8.

“Glenbrook North is an incredible school and theatre is my passion,” she said. “It’s going to be really hard for me to graduate. This place is like my home.”

Erin said she plans to study special education in college.