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Paul Daugherty

Journalist & Social Activist
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Biography

Doctors, therapists, politicians and educators talk about meeting the needs of those with Down syndrome. Paul Daugherty lives it. He and his wife Kerry have blazed a trail for other parents whose children were born with intellectual disabilities. The Daughertys guided their daughter Jillian through the public school system, armed with federal law and a determination to allow their daughter to define herself.

They expected Jillian to do her best. They accepted nothing less. The young girl has evolved into a woman in full. Confident, empathetic and engaged, Jillian is a contributing citizen of the diverse world.

Jillian Daugherty Mavriplis, now 26 and born with Down syndrome, has defied the stereotypes. She was reading as a second-grader, she was riding a two-wheeled bike by age 12. In high school, she was a member of the junior varsity dance team. Jillian graduated from high school, attended four years of college, works full time and has lived independently for two years. She and her husband Ryan Mavriplis, also born with Down syndrome, were married June 27, 2015.

Raising Jillian and fighting for as Paul Daugherty puts it, “Jillian’s right to be seen and not looked at’’ has been an awakening for Paul and Kerry as well. They were up close and personal with Jillian’s spirit and fully immersed in their daughter’s ability to share love and friendship without agendas or guile.
The Daughertys have helped their daughter attain her potential. In turn, Jillian has helped her parents become better people.

Leaning heavily on a few mantras – Expect Don’t Accept, See Don’t Look, Live In The Moment, All You Can Do Is All You Can Do – Paul and Kerry Daugherty have raised a child who has beaten the odds and the perceptions. We’re only as good as the way we treat each other, and we’re never better than when we’re mutually kind.

Listen as Paul Daugherty tells the story of his daughter’s determination and spirit. See if Jillian Daugherty’s joy doesn’t inspire some of your own. He has been speaking for 20 years on behalf of his daughter Jillian, to diverse corporate and community groups.

Topics

The Power of Living in the Moment

Jillian’s disability forced us to slow down. Which allowed us not just to live, but to have a life. The suburban dream exacts a toll. In time, mostly. We are so busy chasing what’s next, we lose sight of what’s right in front of us. We don’t take the time. We’re too busy. As John Lennon put it, “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.’’

Kerry and I couldn’t tell you the first time our typical son Kelly tied his shoes or spelled a simple word correctly. I don’t recall even helping Kelly learn to ride a bike.

Because Jillian’s triumphs took longer and were harder won, I remember all of them. It took her two months to ride the bike. I will never forget the moment I finally let go of the back of the bicycle seat.

Being present in the moment is the difference between seeing a sunset and imagining one. It took Jillian two hours to spell the word “store’’. When she finally did it, I danced around the kitchen table like we’d just won the lottery.

“S-T-O-R-E,’’ I shouted. “Store, store, store!’’

We need the little moments in our lives. The little wins. Without them, and the work needed to attain them, the big wins lose their meaning.

Expect, Don’t Accept

We don’t often get what we expect in life. Most often, we get what we’re willing to put up with. That goes for big corporations and small gatherings around a school conference table, where parents and educators determine the academic futures of people with special needs.

The Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is based loosely on the notion that everyone involved wants what’s best for the student. This is the case for parents who are content to accept what the educators deem is best.

We didn’t. We expected Jillian to be educated in a regular-ed classroom, with an aide, and with federally mandated special programs, if needed. This took money, and money meant fighting.

Expect Don’t Accept stands as a guiding principle for everything we want in life, and everything we stand for. It is a big reason Jillian’s story transcends special needs, because it involves persistence, courage, hope and vision.

It’s possible to get what we expect. But only if we dedicate ourselves to the pursuit.

See, Don't Look

Seeing requires empathy, not sympathy. Don’t judge my daughter for what she looks like. See her for who she is. Seeing is active and engaged. Looking is passive and encourages judgment.
Seeing is a civil right. Imagine the human potential squandered over the centuries, by people who looked without seeing.

An Uncomplicated Life tells Jillian’s story, from the day she was born until the day she became engaged. It’s inspirational, it’s joyful, it’s emotional, it’s instructive. You’ll feel good for having met the protagonist. And uplifted. Jillian is who all of us could be, if we chose to be our best selves.

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