“I Deserve to be Me!” A Mother and Daughter Reflect on School Days and Plans for the Future

Delaney, a self-advocate with Down syndrome, and her mother Emily.

Blog by Delaney and Emily Dunigan

Emily’s words: 

When our daughter Delaney was born with Down syndrome in 1998, two of our first wishes for her as parents were to be happy and to have friends.  She has both so far, and so much more!

As her mother, I believe that everyone should have the chance to succeed in school, and I am grateful for the experiences and education that have gotten Delaney to where she is today.

You see, Delaney is 21 years old and finishing up her seventh year of high school. Since she was 3 years old, teachers and staff from all her schools have been supportive and helpful. They have personalized her individualized education plans for her to be successful in school and beyond. Yes, there were some bumps in the road, but together, working as a team, we have gotten through the bumps. The focus has been on what makes Delaney happy and to keep her surrounded by friends.

Delaney will be graduating this year with a certificate and she will hopefully find the job of her dreams! Maybe she will take a class at the local community college as well.

But enough of me telling you about Delaney and her plans. For the rest of the blog, Delaney, in her own words, will tell you about her education, her advocacy and her plans for the future!

Delaney’s words:

I have Down syndrome — I communicate really well with different people.

I have good teachers, I work hard. I need help sometimes. It is hard for me to spell words but I don’t give up. I work on a Chromebook at school and I do math games, science and listen to music. I read in school. I have OT (Occupational Therapy).

This is my last year in high school, I am 21. I like seeing my friends every day and being myself.

My teachers help me when I do work and when I get frustrated, I speak to them. They help me to get along with my friends. Math is a little hard for me. I like horticulture because I like plants and seeds and we grow plants and take care of them.

In high school, I have taken on many different jobs. Some of my favorite jobs are working at a craft store called Michaels and the YMCA.

I am in Best Buddies at my school. I am an ambassador for Best Buddies. I am a Special Olympics cheerleader. I am a dancer and I love to sing!

I love to go out in communities and I love scavenger hunts. They teach me how to look for things.

I learn how to take the Ride-On bus in our area. I like being outside and seeing nature.

I have been lucky to speak at different events like The Race 4 Respect,  Tribute 21 and my brother’s school. I have talked to different companies telling them about Best Buddies.

I want a job when I grow up, and to be nice to my co-workers.

I want to be a teacher when I graduate. I want to teach little kids. I also want to learn how to bake and cook.

I love my family. I am independent as much as I can be. I like to volunteer.

I feel sad when I think about leaving and graduating school, but I will go back and visit them. I will miss Walter Johnson High School.

I have anxieties sometimes. I stay calm and count back from 10.

I deserve to be me.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.


  1. God bless you Delaney, Emily, and your beautiful family! I am one of the few who are so blessed to know you in real life and have always thought that you were a remarkable young woman! I know that you will go far and accomplish many things!

  2. May God continue to bless her. She is absolutely beautiful, if only all people her age and younger would listen. Such a wonderful/powerful person.

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