My name is Allan McNeill. I am a person with Down syndrome.
I will tell you what my life is like with an extra chromosome in every cell in my body. I was slower than my five siblings learning to sit, stand, walk and talk. The hardest was learning to talk, saying words like “hospital” and “world”. I worked hard to learn all these things. My mom was always teaching me, while playing with me.
When I was four years old, I got leukemia. That was not nice, and I was on chemo therapy for three years. The good news is: I am totally better and very healthy today.
I began to enjoy food after my chemo and gained too much weight. So I went to see a nutritionist. She helped me lose sixty pounds. I have kept that extra weight off for many years, by eating healthy and exercising. My friends say I have a lot of willpower.
I swim sixty to seventy lengths, three times each week. I have always liked watching wrestling, and still do that on weekends.
Going to school was great for me. My teachers were wonderful. They were patient, and worked hard to teach me. My classmates would come to my house to swim and play with me. Some kids did not want a friend with Down syndrome – a retard, as they thought – which is a terrible word.
I learned to read, write, do math, but more slowly than my classmates.
I know that some kids with Down syndrome are bullied at school. That never happened to me, as most kids were very nice and helped me. One of my teachers set up a “circle of friends” club that helped me make friends.
I have been in Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. I have been trained as a Scout Leader. For the last fifteen years, I have helped as a leader with 15th Strathcona Scouts.
For twelve years, I was a part time volunteer in the office at a school.
Now, I work at Innomotive Solutions Group of Canada, a company that makes roll up doors for transport trucks and fire trucks. I really like my job and I am learning a lot. I plan to stay there until I retire. The company and my co-workers treat me well and pay me well, including profit sharing and bonuses.
On Sunday morning, I work at my church, as the Sacristan.
You can see that I am very busy, but I still have time, in the summer, to play golf with my brother and dad. We also enjoy a few Blue Jays games at the Rogers centre each year. Most of all, I enjoy talking with my girl-friend Sarah on the phone and texting. We go out on dates and double dates. Sarah is very nice and pretty.
I am a member of the Halton Down Syndrome Association Board of Directors. I am the only person with Down Syndrome on the board. My role is Director of the Graduate Group. This group is adults who have finished high school. We plan social activities, cooking classes, sports events and having fun together.
Every week, I meet with a tutor who helps me with new skills. We read together, talk, write, do some math, play games, cook and bake together and sometimes play a game of golf.
As you can see, we are never too old to learn. I hope to keep learning every day, until the day I die!
Allan McNeill is an active board member with the Halton Down Syndrome Association. He lives in Burlington, ON.
What an incredible story, Al. I will never forget the first time I met you, in Ottawa at the CDSS conference. My Max was just 8 months old and after talking with you I just knew that he would have an amazing life, just like you. You gave me.so much confidence in the future and I thank the universe every day for knowing you! You rock, Al!