Self Advocate

by Catherine Riley

Catherine is a 33 year old assistant. Catherine achieved that position based upon hands-on training she received in her high school transition program. Impressed with her skills, the district hired her upon graduation and promoted her from office work to classroom assistant. She currently works in the 1st and 2nd grade inclusion classes, where she assists special education, regular education, and ESL students. She has a busy social life which includes belonging to a gym for twenty years, being a Eucharistic minister at her church, and having a close network of friends through her job, church, and gym. Recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease she keeps daily food journals and manages her weight independently. For the last 15 years, along with her sister Molly and her mother Nola, has been the keynote speakers at conventions, workshops, and colleges as well as speaking to parents, teachers, and other professional who provide services to people with intellectual disabilities. She has spoken throughout PA about growing up with Down syndrome, as a self-advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. Catherine is an outstanding example of the message she advocates that “individuals with disabilities have the remarkable ability to live full, productive, independent lives”. 

Poem by Catherine Riley

Sometimes I feel that I am different but I am not different.
I am a person who has feelings and dreams.
I’ve always wondered why people talk about me or call me names.
I just wish that they could see me for who I am
And treat me as normal as every other human being on this earth.
Then we could be friends.
Just give me a chance to tell you how I feel.
Having Down syndrome is a part of me that will never go away.
Yes, I have a disability, but I am normal, just like you.
I have wishes and dreams, and most of all,
I am a person who has a full life.
I can dance and I can write.
I have creativity and everything that I need in life
God made me who I am and you who you are,
Sometimes different shapes and sizes, and even colors.
Instead of judging me for what I have,
Take a good luck at yourself and then at me.
Only then will you see the real person inside of me.