So, what is Connor working on these days? Well, COVID has impacted everyone but it also opened new opportunities such as qualifying for the US Down Syndrome Swimming national team where Connor hopes to earn a spot on the travel team for international competition. A number of events were canceled, so now Connor is working toward qualifying with the US Down Syndrome Swimming national team for the Down Syndrome International Swimming Organization (DSISO) world championships in Portugal in 2022. The team members across the country meet weekly on Zoom to share exercise tips and to keep in touch.
In the meantime, Connor hopes to find a flexible restaurant job once it is safer post-Covid. He is very interested to attend culinary school and continue studying acting. And, once the weather is warmer, you will find Connor riding his bike and doing physical therapy using telehealth technology. He’s currently participating in a remote exercise research project through the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ (UNLV) Physical Therapy Department. The program will help improve opportunities for adults with Down syndrome to stay active and healthy by participating in intensive workouts three times a week while being monitored for heart rates, respiration, etc.
He also has an essay being published this year in the academic book, “At the Intersection of Disability and Drama: A Critical Anthology of New Plays.” His essay is, “A Performer’s Monologue” and he will be staging and filming a live performance of the essay with the goal of submitting it to film festivals.
Connor and his father strongly believe that actors with disabilities should be cast in roles that call for a person with a disability, not cast by people who only portray people with disabilities. And they also feel that people with disabilities should be cast into roles where “disability” is irrelevant to the story – so, disability is normalized and not “the story.” Both Connor and Brian acknowledge that Jay Ruderman and the RudermanFoundation.org, as well as Respectability.org have made great progress on this front.
Connor has played many different types of characters and someday he hopes to play a Power Ranger! He also hopes that writers and casting agents will be more determined to place people with disabilities in projects so that what is seen in the media better reflects the people who live in our communities, including people with disabilities.
Having a child with a disability presents challenges and opportunities to parents around the world. For Brian, it has given him the opportunity to advocate not only on behalf of Connor, but also on behalf of other parents of children who have disabilities and for the disability community as well. Brian believes that people with disabilities deserve equal opportunities like everyone else and that, “Citizens can make sure they elect public officials who are humble and compassionate for people of all abilities. Government needs to seek out and listen to the lived experiences of real people and not just to politicians and special-interest groups with non-supportive agendas.” We couldn’t agree more.
Fun fact about Connor:
Connor thinks he has British ancestors because he can speak with a “good British accent.” The truth is that Connor does have Irish, French, and British origins and is good with many accents after studying Spanish and Latin in school and listening to German and Dutch on Duolingo plus watching the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings collections!
And finally, Connor concluded our conversation by saying,
“I am here because someone believed in me, in my humanity, my potential, my abilities, and my right not only to exist, but to flourish…as me!”