Mary Iusso of Brampton, Ontario, knows that her daughter, Christina, is capable of having an extraordinary life. Sadly, because Christina was born with Down syndrome, people around Iusso suggested that her daughter would never amount to anything — a lie that many parents of children with Down syndrome hear.
Iusso told Global News, “When Cristina was born, I was told, ‘have no expectations of your daughter. Don’t expect her to be a doctor or a lawyer,’ and Cristina was less than 24 hours old. I thought, ‘you got to be kidding me. Why doesn’t the world expect anything of her?’”
Despite the outdated prejudice her daughter faced, Iusso was determined to provide ample opportunity for Christina to develop her talents and flourish in the world. To that end, Iusso opened a unique bake shop in Brampton: Christina’s Tortina Shop, offering from scratch cupcakes and desserts with a special focus on showcasing the abilities of people with disabilities.
She told the news, “Cristina inspired us to do this,” adding, “I knew then I had to do something where people come into the shop, have their own experiences and in the same breath I get to teach them and talk to them about Down syndrome.”
Seven years after the shop opened, Christina is now 10 and works alongside her mother after school and on weekends in the cupcake shop that bears her name. Iusso said, “I have three staff — two have Down syndrome, one is on the spectrum, and everybody has an important job and everybody loves what they do.”
For Iusso, each cupcake her shop makes and each customer who has a positive experience in the accepting environment she has created is an opportunity to make the world a better place for her daughter. “Anybody with Down syndrome has hopes and dreams and we need to ask them what they want to do and what do they want to aspire to be,” she said. “And if it happens to be a baker in a cupcake shop, great.”
Thankfully, many family, friends, and advocates are supporting people with Down syndrome in running their own businesses, pursuing education, getting married, and living the unique and full lives that they are fully capable of living. While deadly discrimination still exists for babies with Down syndrome, some people are realizing the injustice and speaking out.
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