The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

National Down Syndrome Society
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My Sister-in-Law
My Sister-in-Law

"Take her home and give her lots of love. She may be a little slow. With these caring words Judy left the hospital. In those days, when Down syndrome was still called "mongolism" most would be placed in an institution soon after birth. For Judy it would be different at least for a time. For seven-and-a-half crucial years Judy and her twin sister Joyce would spend an idyllic country childhood together, until one terrible morning Joyce awoke to find Judy gone spirited away before dawn and without warning. "She's gone to a special school where she'll learn to talk" volunteered their mother, shaking with suppressed grief. Labeled as profoundly retarded, and with little expectation that she might ever be able to care for herself, Judy's future looked grim. It would be more than thirty years before her institutional caregivers came to realize that she was not profoundly retarded but profoundly deaf. As all the testing had been verbal, her extremely poor scores had been inevitable. In the wake of Judy's sudden departure, her family sank into a dark whirlpool of despair, leading first to their mother's breakdown and then to their father's heart attack, from which he would never recover. Moving to California, Joyce remained haunted by images of Judy in her Dickensian state institution far away in Ohio. The bond that unites twins is legendary and for Joyce, who felt herself one with Judy for seven years, the separation was almost unbearable. In an epiphany during six days of silent meditation among the Redwoods, Joyce realized that by becoming Judy's legal guardian she might remove her from state care and bring her to live in California. In time, this came to pass, and on this happy note the story might well have ended. However, this is a tale of continuing miracles. Enrolled in Creative Growth, an art center in Oakland providing facilities for artists with disabilities, Judy showed little interest for two years. Then one day, observing a fiber artist at work nearby, she suddenly created a pair of embracing twin-like doll figures wrapped in colored yarns. Recognizing the originality of her work, Judy was given free rein and embarked on a twenty-year frenzy of creativity. Her new and original fiber sculptures took the art community by storm, and today Judy's pieces grace museums around the world. Judy's story may be dramatic, but every person possesses hidden gifts and talents. To us, Judy's family, it is not just her art that matters. Even more important has been her wisdom and the lessons in life, love and compassion that she has taught us. We feel ourselves blessed. To learn more about Judy, visit: www.judithscott.




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