Jeff croppedjoanna's cat

Growing up with my brother Jeff, who has Down syndrome, was pretty easy. He was extremely laid back, quiet, had his routine, sometimes you didn’t even know he was there. There was one thing, however, that would send him running for the hills—cats. I remember when we were little that if a cat came moseying his way, he would turn and bolt in the other direction. We had a dog that he would feed and look after and he liked our neighbour’s poodle who would jump up and down demanding his attention, but a cat walking his way—no thanks!

I think we sometimes forget that people with developmental disabilities have similar fears and phobias that everyone has. We tend to focus on the other more “pressing” issues that having a disability brings to the forefront and push these simple daily occurrences to the back burner. As a little sister, of course I teased him about it, probably making the situation a little bit more difficult than it could have been. As an adult, I am a little more sensitive to his fear until…

Flash forward 25 years to find Jeff sitting on my couch….and my cat sitting on his lap. He didn’t seem overly disturbed, although he sat up a little straighter and kept his hands by his side. But then ever so slowly, he brought his hand up, patted the cat and whispered “nice kitty”. His hand returned to his side just as fast, but it was enough encouragement for Sasha (the cat) to curl into a ball for a long nap. Jeff didn’t look too comfortable, but he didn’t run the other way either. As fast as she was on his lap though, something caught her attention and off she went to investigate. Sasha crawled up onto his lap several times that day, garnering a similar response. I think she thought he was her new best friend!

This simple event made me aware that we all change over the years, even people who we feel they remain the same. Jeff hasn’t had the variety of life experiences I have, but he has changed and grown through his own.

By Joanna Redfern, Volunteer Blogger

For more information about Joanna, please go to:

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. 

The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Well said!
    I have a brother with downs, who is less fortunate. Certain cinditions and predudices can hurt the chance to grow. So iimportant to remember we are all just people first. Our conditions do not define our capabilities.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: