Changing the Way the World Views Down syndrome and Changing One Person’s World

Grade School Boy with Down syndrome

Finn is an 11 year old boy that is full of life, smart, a hard-worker and fast learner. His story has inspired us and we wanted to share with the world.

Finn was born with Down syndrome and has a very loving and supportive family.  When he was in elementary school he wanted to do everything his classmates did. However, people with Down syndrome learn a little differently and process information in a way that is not quite the same as their typically developing peers. They need teachers, staff and community around them that understand the way they learn so their school day is productive and engaging.


Finn was capable of completing many of the same assignments as his peers but wasn’t able to do them as quickly or in exactly the same way as his classmates.

Unfortunately, Finn’s second grade teacher was not versed on how to teach someone with Down syndrome.  Finn was capable of completing many of the same assignments as his peers but wasn’t able to do them as quickly or in exactly the same way as his classmates. Instead of partnering with his classroom teachers, adapting the curriculum and supporting him, the teacher decided that removing him from the classroom would be ‘best’ for him because he wasn’t keeping up in her eyes. There were no efforts made for inclusion.

This removal was the start of a long road for Finn and his family.  Being underestimated automatically sets Finn up for failure.  There were no lesson plans for him, he wasn’t able to complete any of the same projects as his peers and he quickly became bored.  He began acting out because of his frustration with being misunderstood all the time and he lost the friendships he was forming because he only had limited interaction with his class. When he was able to spend time with these students, he didn’t have anything in common with them.  His confidence was completely gone.  Finn’s family continually advocated for him and had numerous meetings with the school to try and help them understand what Finn was needing to succeed.  They saw how much he had regressed by the end of 2nd grade and Finn’s Grandma, Mary, said it had turned into a ‘crisis’.  Mary had been a teacher at Finn’s school and decided to take matters into her own hands.

Mary called our Playhouse and shared Finn’s story- she knew she needed help from someone that knew how to serve the Down syndrome community.  Mary enlisted the help of her friend who was also a teacher at their school and her friend made the trip to Madison from the Milwaukee area to spend a day learning how to tutor someone with Down syndrome in Math and Literacy. This ‘How I Learn Video‘ is a great starting point for anyone that wants to better understand how people with Down syndrome learn.

This new teacher, Finn, and his family worked diligently all Summer on math and reading by following the GiGi’s Playhouse tutoring guides and using all the resources we have available for our tutors.

By the end of Summer Finn was thriving! Finn’s Mom, Melissa, worked with his school and 3rd-grade teacher to incorporate all he had worked on into his daily curriculum plan. Throughout 3rd grade, Finn continued to amaze everyone. He was able to be in the classroom with his peers and learned many of the same things they did.  He made new friendships because he wasn’t excluded from the daily school events, he found his confidence again and his classmates were able to see his sense of humor and kindness. Finn even hosted the school’s morning announcements!

Grade School Friends

Finn’s family has shared with us that all of our programs are confidence builders because we celebrate each person’s “Best of All’ in everything they do. (Learn more about Best of All here) Melissa said that the impact of our programming is ‘undeniable’ and Mary shared there are ‘not enough words’ to explain what GiGi’s programming has meant to Finn and their family. Finn always says “I Love GiGi’s” and is thriving because he’s part of a place that ‘gets him’.  An analogy the family shared is trying to compare apples to oranges; if Finn is an apple in a sea of oranges he can’t fit into what people think oranges should be because he’s an apple. He will never be an orange, but he is an incredible apple and when he’s supported by people that love apples he can be the shining star that he is!

Finn’s family said they don’t know where they’d be if they hadn’t found GiGi’s and that their lives went from a nightmare to a hopeful and bright future


Finn’s family said they don’t know where they’d be if they hadn’t found GiGi’s and that their lives went from a nightmare to a hopeful and bright future. Participating in our programming has proved he CAN learn.

 Grade school boy with Down syndrome celebrating with strong arms

Finn is a superhero and is currently participating in virtual GiGi’s 1:1 literacy and math tutoring and in-person Speech and Language Therapy. Finn’s Math tutor said that he’s “the smartest student she’s ever had”.

All this progress has been made in a short amount of time and we love that we get to come along for this ride with Finn and his family. He is unstoppable and will continue to shatter the misconceptions that society has of people with Down syndrome.









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  1. Judy Heil on October 7, 2021 at 5:56 pm

    Finn has a wonderful grandmother (and family) who went the “extra-mile” to attend the literacy tutor training and use the materials in the home with Finn. This was before virtual options. It is so great to hear that Finn is doing so well!

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