Only a few of you may yet have heard of 12 year old Emmanuel, but I suspect that in a few years time his name will be more familiar.
I have been in contact with his dad Victor since Emmanuel was a baby and long ago he asked permission to link from his comprehensive website Riverbend Down Syndrome Parent Support Group, to Down's Heart Group's website for all the cardiac information. However, the first time we actually met in person was at the World Congress in Vancouver in 2006 when I was disappointed to hear that Victor was there on his own.
I was keen to meet Emmanuel too, so I was very excited when I heard that he would be presenting at the the World Congress in Dublin last year. Finally I would get to meet this young man in person. And I was not disappointed, apart from his many talents which I shall mention in a moment, I found Emmanuel to be a very polite, well mannered and charming young man. whom I'm sure with the benefit of a few more years of experience and confidence will be another great self-advocate.
Currently he presents beautifully on familiar subject matter, but is a little less confident when asked to respond to questions from the audience - but then lots of people with more life experience than his 12 years find that pretty daunting too. Added to that is the fact that he is obviously more confident in Spanish than English (yes he speaks both) and you can understand his hesitance when an enthusiastic audience start hurling questions at him in English.
In Dublin, Emmanuel gave a violin recital on the main stage to a packed auditorium and then he gave a powerpoint presentation entitled Before and After which charts his development. The current version has been updated and now includes Dublin, it encompasses his swimming, violin playing and golf - yes golf! Emmanuel has been playing since the age of 8 and is showing a natural talent for the sport, you can read an article about it here, which was published in Down Syndrome Research and Practice.
I look forward to watching Emmanuel's progress in the coming years and have to confess to feeling a little bit proud that I've "known him" almost from the beginning! Thank you Victor for introducing me to your wonderful son, whom I think is a great individual to be my 6th day of Christmas, as like us on the brink of a New Year, I think Emmanuel is on the brink of a wonderful life.