Transition Success Story: Melissa Silverman

August 2, 2013
Thanks in part to Kennedy Krieger’s Down syndrome mentoring program and parents who were constant advocates, Melissa went on to become a teacher’s assistant and an active disability advocate.

Melissa SilvermanWhen Melissa Silverman was younger, her parents worried she wouldn’t have enough social interaction as she grew older, and they wondered what her future would hold. Now 30, Melissa, who has Down syndrome, is actively involved in advocacy and social groups, and has been employed as a teacher’s assistant at a local preschool for nine years. She has served on the boards of local and national Down syndrome advisory organizations, and is also the news editor for the GILD (Group for the Independent Learning Disabled), a local social group for adults with disabilities. She’s given talks at Loyola University and The Johns Hopkins University, and has been a keynote speaker at Down syndrome conferences. And as if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, she is a part-time professional magician. The magic is just one more way she works as a self-advocate, teaching people about her disability.

As her father, Jay, explains, the magic bundle of silk she uses in her shows is a way to help audiences understand people with disabilities. At first people just see a piece of fabric, but as they watch, it becomes something more. And that’s how it often is for people with disabilities.

Keys to Success

When Melissa was a teenager, her parents met with social workers at Kennedy Krieger Institute and started a club for girls with Down syndrome. Through careful guidance from their parents and the team at the Institute, the girls learned about everything from what Down syndrome is to how to cope with body changes. And when the girls entered their twenties, they served as mentors to younger girls with Down syndrome. Thanks in part to help from this program, Melissa gained the confidence she needed to succeed in her own life. She became the first person with Down syndrome in Baltimore County to earn a Maryland high school diploma, and she went on to community college, where she earned her child care certification.

“Our philosophy as parents has been to open as many doors for Melissa as we possibly can.”

—Janis Silverman, mother of Melissa

Return to the Potential feature article,
Transitioning into the Great Unknown: Adulthood