by Bethany Clough –
Six-year-old Elijah De La Cerda of Fresno can win people over with a single smile.
Throw in his tendency to bust a move when he has an audience and the hugs he doles out to strangers, and Elijah has a good shot at making even Oscar the Grouch giggle.
Even if Elijah didn’t have Down syndrome, he would have a story to tell.
But his condition, combined with his personality and the countless Down syndrome awareness events he has participated in, have turned the brown-eyed youngster into a spokesperson for people with Down syndrome.
He is on the cover of a national Toys R Us toy guide with actress Eva Longoria, and he has landed a modeling gig for a clothing boutique. This weekend he will walk the runway at a Denver fashion show featuring actor Jamie Foxx and musician Quincy Jones.
Everywhere he goes, Elijah reels in people who might otherwise be wary of a person who looks like him.
“He’s a spokesperson for anyone who’s different,” said his mom, Jami De La Cerda of Fresno.
She and others who work with people with Down syndrome say they should be defined by more than their disability. Elijah has a knack for making you do that.
Last week he demonstrated it while leaving his tae kwon do class. A little boy who had just met Elijah told his own mom, “He doesn’t talk.”
Elijah’s mom chimed in, explaining that he does talk, he’s just still learning how.
Without prompting, Elijah walked up to the boy, who was holding a sports drink in both hands. Elijah put his hands on the boy’s wrists, pulled his arms apart and enveloped him in a hug.
Suddenly the group was laughing and chatting.
Down syndrome is caused by an extra chromosome that leads to delays in intellectual, language and physical development.
Elijah has hearing problems and though he still is learning to pronounce words, he knows them. He frequently communicates using sign language.
He couldn’t have picked a more prepared family to be born into.
Less than a year later, she gave birth to fraternal twins: Elijah and Samuel, who does not have Down syndrome and is his brother’s shy counterpart.
They have an older brother, Isaiah, who is 9.
Careful to include all three boys in all activities — Samuel and Isaiah have walked the runway, too — the couple home-school their three boys in a rented four-room office in northwest Fresno.
The parents split their time between Diamond Learning Center and home schooling the boys. Other teachers come in to lead the boys in hitting a punching bag or painting water colors.
Early on, the family participated in awareness events that included fashion shows and performances by the Diamond Learning Center’s band — Elijah is a drummer.
It soon was apparent that Elijah was a showman.
“He’s never met a camera or a mirror he didn’t like,” Jami De La Cerda said.
After sending his pictures to the annual Toys R Us casting call for its toy guide for differently abled kids, the company chose him from hundreds of submissions for its 2011 cover.
Read more at Fresno boy with Down syndrome models for Toys R Us.
[Via Fresno Bee]