The Brain Issue: Normal

Clare Sullivan, junior, said she and Lucy Salamon, senior, were born to be best friends. Each of them were also born with an extra chromosome.

Catherine McCandless

Clare Sullivan, junior, said she and Lucy Salamon, senior, were born to be best friends. Each of them were also born with an extra chromosome.

By Molly Higgins, Kirkwood High School

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Two girls spend their time between classes talking excitedly, laughing gleefully and almost always dancing. Clare Sullivan, junior, said she and Lucy Salamon, senior, were born to be best friends. Each of them were also born with an extra chromosome.

“We’ve been friends for pretty much my entire life,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been together through everything. We even pretend we’re sisters because we look the same. Everyone gets us mixed up. Sometimes they call me Lucy [and] they call her Clare.”

Sullivan and Salamon both have Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra copy of chromosome 21, a structure containing genetic information. This changes how the body and brain develop, causing mental and physical challenges such as delayed growth. According to Sullivan, she and Salamon are connected through their shared experience with Down syndrome, but also shared interests.

“[Salamon] is a great friend,” Sullivan said. “She has a really good personality. We like to joke around, we love the same movies and the same music. We fight, because that’s what we do, but she’s one of my best friends. She’s my best, best friend.”

Sullivan said she and Salamon enjoy participating in Circle of Friends, a KHS club that promotes acceptance and diversity of abilities. Circle of Friends organizes several social events and fundraisers throughout the year.

I am normal, besides Down syndrome. I am normal with an extra part of me.”

— Clare Sullivan

“Our mission is to provide a fun high school experience for students of all abilities,” Anna De Marco, junior and Circle of Friends co-president, said. “{Sullivan and Salamon have a lot of fun together [in Circle of Friends].”

Sullivan and Salamon are both Circle of Friends board members, and the two enjoy collaborating in leadership. Zach Baynham, junior and Circle of Friends co-president, said the strength of Sullivan and Salamon’s friendship is apparent to everyone around them.

“[Sullivan and Salamon] are the cutest friends ever,” Baynham said. “They do fight, but then they’ll hear a song they both like, hug and they’re friends again.”

“[In Circle of Friends] we try to bring everyone together,” Sullivan said. “Right now, I have two separate groups, my ‘normal’ group of friends, and my Down syndrome friends. I’m trying to combine the two.”

Although Circle of Friends promotes inclusion at KHS, Sullivan said she has still experienced negativity from classmates. She said her peers do not understand Down syndrome, which leads them to treat her differently than others.

“A lot of people have been mean to me,” Sullivan said. “You can see [Down syndrome] in somebody, so people know I have Down syndrome, and they try to make me feel bad [about it]. I am normal, besides Down syndrome. I am normal with an extra part of me.”

“[Clare and I] have a special connection,” Salamon said. “We fight, but we work things out. We talk about what we’re frustrated about, we communicate.”

Salamon said she agrees with Sullivan’s perspective on inclusion at KHS. She said KHS is a welcoming environment, but students should work toward increased acceptance.

“KHS is a great place to be,” Salamon said. “But people need to be including to everyone, and engage in conversation. I’m trying to blend in [and] know everybody at KHS. We just need to include more people.”

According to Salamon, she appreciates the message of inclusion that Circle of Friends spreads at KHS. She said she loves the accepting atmosphere she has experienced in the club.

“Circle of Friends means becoming a part of something,” Salamon said. “[You can] come as you are, be who you are, [and] come [together] as a circle of friends. It’s the best place to be.”

This story was originally published on The Kirkwood Call on November 10, 2019.