EVERYONE wants to be heard. Madison Tevlin is no different.
Born with Downs Syndrome, neither she nor her family have ever let her condition stand in the way of achieving anything she wants to do. Where she wants to go she goes, where they go she goes with them.
Like any other 13-year-old teenager the Canadian loves pop music and has her favourite stars, John Legend being one of them and his record ‘All of Me’ is one of her top ten.
Her family have really stepped up to the plate though when Madison decided she wanted to record a song. Not only did the whole family offer support; her father, John played the piano while she sang and her sister has been doing her social media to promote the recording on YouTube.
The family could have gone for a cheesy song that would have pulled at heart strings and been produced to sound like a huge budget production. Instead the family have used it as an opportunity to highlight some of the challenges that Downs Syndrome have to overcome, one of which is prejudice.
As Madison sings the YouTube video features facts about Downs and disability. For example someone with Downs has more difficulty singing because it requires twice the energy to create a vocal sound, that and to memorise the 348 different words in the John Legend song is a major achievement for the young teenager.
All that pales into insignificance for Madison though, who has her younger 11 year old sister Zoie doing her social media and her parents protecting her privacy, now she is an international signing phenomena.
As a normal teenager Madison is thrilled that her singing hero, John Legend, has been in touch with her and given her a thumbs up, in the same way that ubu gives its seal of approval to best practice.
Madison is not just talented and determined but incredibly brave. To say the YouTube recording has been a hit is a gross understatement, with more than five million views, it has gone viral. But not all the comments on social media have been positive, however the family have chosen to leave them on for the world to see exactly how people are, despite the fact some are hurtful.
“The whole reason for the YouTube is to try and dispel some of the myths that are out there about vulnerable people,” said her father and accompanying pianist, John Tevlin. “The fact that some comments are hurtful is part of what happens,” he added. “It allows the conversation about disabled people to happen and develop.”
He said that Madison had often faced prejudice but it was more a reflection on the people who were negative rather than on her or any other vulnerable person.
“We have never let Madison’s Down Syndrome stand in the way of what she aspires to achieve nor will we ever,” he said. “She is special to us because she is ours, just like her sister. We want society to address their own prejudices, face up to the fact they are fears based on ignorance and realise that if they find out more, which we help them do with the YouTube video, then they will be better able to pass informed comments.”
For Madison’s father it is easy saying these things, but for Madison it is incredibly brave to be part of the debate and we applaud her for it.
The YouTube video has also reminded others that Madison is not a voice in the wilderness. Last summer, Boston Red Sox fan, Mike Mullins, sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" in front of 37,000 people at Fenway Park.
The 38-year-old, who has been singing the national anthem for the minor league PawSox for a decade, had reportedly campaigned to open a game at the stadium for four years. “Piece of cake,” Mullins said of the gig.
And of course last year we saw Martin Finn, the man with severe autism help us celebrate the opening of our newest setting in Knaresborough and our Christmas celebrations as well.
ubu has always been dedicated to giving vulnerable people everywhere a voice. uStep is all about self determination and giving people choices. Everywhere there are talented people who have so much to contribute in diverse fields such as the arts, culture as well as just by being themselves in their community.
Rather than showing our ignorance through discrimination we all need to think of what we can do to help give a voice to everyone, no matter what their talents or skills. If you too would like to be inspired by these amazing people take a look for yourself;
Watch Maddison at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpcYnSuf_7s or Martin here at http://www.ubu.me.uk/videos/category-3/achieve-and-inspire/
To find out how we continue to make sure vulnerable adults have a voice follow us on twitter @ubusupport.