SARASOTA – October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and instead of focusing on the obstacles that come with Down syndrome, The Haven is doing the opposite.

Each year in the U.S., about 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome. The Haven President & CEO Brad Jones sees that as 6,000 opportunities for success.

“All of them are individuals, all of them have the same aspirations and goals, and it’s really about celebrating their abilities,” Jones said.

One of those individuals is Megan Maus, who explained what Down syndrome means to her.

“It means that we have a lot of downs and everything like that,” Maus said.

With the downs, though, there are some ups.

When Maus isn’t scooping peanut butter cookies in The Haven’s kitchen, she works at Culver’s.

“I do cashiering, helping the guests that are coming in with wheelchairs or walkers,” Maus said.

She can speak well, but others are not as fortunate.

“If they cannot speak I help them, do a lot of speaking for them,” Maus said. “Or I raise my hand for them if they cannot raise their hand.”

October is giving Megan, and those who cannot speak, a platform.

“It’s just breaking down barriers,” Jones said. “Showing them that people are the same. Just because you look different doesn’t mean you are different.”

When talking about Down syndrome, Jones never used the word “disability.”

“Everyone has special abilities and things they can do,” Jones said.

“We have to help them speak out more and understand them,” Maus said.

The Haven is hosting their 20th annual Jingle & Jog Saturday, December 2nd. For more information, visit The Haven’s website.