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Amazing Grace getting on with life

Features

With the SA abortion debate raging in recent months, an Adelaide mum invites any woman who is considering ending the life of her unborn child to spend some time with her daughter before making the decision.

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Despite the challenges of raising a child with Down syndrome, Monica Kwan said she could not imagine her life without Grace, who is such an important part of their family.

Turning 20 this year, Grace has a long list of achievements to her credit – from attending mainstream school and completing Year 12, to now running a micro business, and being an accomplished pianist who plays once a month at Our Lady of Dolour’s Church in Kingswood.

While her accomplishments make her mum, dad Sam and younger sisters Stephanie and Angela very proud, as Monica points out, just because Grace has Down syndrome she should not need to reinforce her “worth” as a human being.

“Nobody needs to justify their existence,” she said.

“We see a lot of very positive people with Down syndrome on the internet trying to show people they have a ‘normal’ life. I don’t have to show people that I lead a normal life, so I don’t see why they have to justify their existence. Who are we to judge?

“I don’t believe in abortions because every child is a gift.”

Sam and Monica, who are both doctors, chose not to have any genetic screening tests during their three pregnancies as it “was not going to change anything”. Their deep Catholic faith meant they would accept God’s gifts as they were offered.

When their first born was diagnosed with Down syndrome they knew there would be difficult times ahead, but many rewarding ones as well.

Recalling Grace’s early years, Monica said there were serious health issues to manage, while also dealing with the “insensitivities” of several medical and educational professionals.

“It’s been very challenging,” she admitted. “At the beginning it was the worry of how the world will treat her, the worry of how she will cope with the challenges later.

“I like to plan things 10 years ahead… but I could not formulate a plan of what Grace would do after school. But then life is such there are plans for you and you don’t actually have to worry too much if you have enough faith.”

With the love and support of her family, Grace, who is visually and hearing impaired, attended mainstream school at St Teresa’s primary in Brighton and at Cabra College she finished Year 12, completing a VET course in Animal Studies.

Now she is focused on growing her handmade card and gift business. Together with Monica she has created a website to promote the range of items she designs, which also includes custom candles, personalised etched glasses, screen printed T shirts and bags.

“I want to make the business big enough so I can employ others with a disability,” Grace said, adding that her friend Josh from Cabra is now helping to package items.

In addition to working in her business, Grace attends dance, performing arts classes and plays keyboard in a band called Querkistra at Tutti Arts each week.

For Monica, seeing her eldest daughter thriving is vindication that every life matters. She said if a woman was considering having an abortion because of fear that the child wasn’t going to be “perfect”, they should meet Grace before making their decision.

“I would say to them, it’s probably best to come and meet my daughter, come and talk to Grace and see what is possible.”

For more information about Grace’s business go to www.graces-handmade-cards.myshopify.com/

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