Journalist & Social Activist
Doctors, therapists, politicians and educators talk about meeting the needs of those with Down syndrome. Paul Daugherty lives it. He and his wife Kerry have blazed a trail for other parents whose children were born with intellectual disabilities. The Daughertys guided their daughter Jillian through the public school system, armed with federal law and a determination to allow their daughter to define herself. They expected Jillian to do her best. They accepted nothing less. The young girl has evolved into a woman in full. Confident, empathetic and engaged, Jillian is a contributing citizen of the diverse world. Read More >
Jillian in Her Own Words
We're Only as Good as We Treat Each Other
A Father's Unconditional Love
Jillian’s disability forced us to slow down. Which allowed us not just to live, but to have a life. The suburban dream exacts a toll. In time, mostly. We are so busy chasing what’s next, we lose sight of what’s right in front of us. We don’t take the time. We’re too busy. As John Lennon put it, “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.’’
Kerry and I couldn’t tell you the first time our typical son Kelly tied his shoes or spelled a simple word correctly. I don’t recall even helping Kelly learn to ride a bike.
Because Jillian’s triumphs took longer and were harder won, I remember all of them. It took her two months to ride the bike. I will never forget the moment I finally let go of the back of the bicycle seat.
Being present in the moment is the difference between seeing a sunset and imagining one. It took Jillian two hours to spell the word “store’’. When she finally did it, I danced around the kitchen table like we’d just won the lottery.
“S-T-O-R-E,’’ I shouted. “Store, store, store!’’
We need the little moments in our lives. The little wins. Without them, and the work needed to attain them, the big wins lose their meaning.
We don’t often get what we expect in life. Most often, we get what we’re willing to put up with. That goes for big corporations and small gatherings around a school conference table, where parents and educators determine the academic futures of people with special needs.
The Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is based loosely on the notion that everyone involved wants what’s best for the student. This is the case for parents who are content to accept what the educators deem is best.
We didn’t. We expected Jillian to be educated in a regular-ed classroom, with an aide, and with federally mandated special programs, if needed. This took money, and money meant fighting.
Expect Don’t Accept stands as a guiding principle for everything we want in life, and everything we stand for. It is a big reason Jillian’s story transcends special needs, because it involves persistence, courage, hope and vision.
It’s possible to get what we expect. But only if we dedicate ourselves to the pursuit.
Seeing requires empathy, not sympathy. Don’t judge my daughter for what she looks like. See her for who she is. Seeing is active and engaged. Looking is passive and encourages judgment. Seeing is a civil right. Imagine the human potential squandered over the centuries, by people who looked without seeing. Read More >
An Uncomplicated Life tells Jillian’s story, from the day she was born until the day she became engaged. It’s inspirational, it’s joyful, it’s emotional, it’s instructive. You’ll feel good for having met the protagonist. And uplifted. Jillian is who all of us could be, if we chose to be our best selves. Read Less ^
"I have had the pleasure to hear Paul Daugherty speak to disparate audiences on several occasions. The first occasion was at Mariemont High School. He delivered a speech to the National Honor Society. His speech was extremely motivating for not only the young adults in attendance, but the parents and professionals too. His delivery of the information was forthright and compelling. I have attended several of these motivational speeches for this Society. I have observed very little 'stickiness' quality in past speeches. Paul’s discussion spoke to the intellectual gifts they possess, and the future choices and uses of these gifts for the betterment of those less fortunate. The use of metaphors and subtle humor was weaved throughout his delivery."
"The second occasion was at the Cincinnati Rotary Club meeting. Paul was selected to fulfill the program portion of the meeting and to hear from a local personality. The format for this speech was to present a few sports 'gems and nuggets' followed by a Q&A session with the members. The tidbits of sports insights coupled with the humorous delivery had the full attention of the audience. The Q&A session demonstrated a 'quick wit' and a strong knowledge for the material being requested. I have heard from several Rotarians that this is a meeting not to miss."
"The final occasion was at an annual meeting for the agency I am employed as ED. Paul had just completed his book about this daughter, and we thought that a parent discussing their experiences would fit nicely with the theme of our meeting. His speech was a huge hit for those in the audience. Board members, parents, staff, clients and special guests were treated to a well balanced illustration of the life of an exceptional person [Julian] and the ancillary roles others played in her development and aspirations. Paul’s ability to start with an unrelated story about friendship and accentuate the importance of relationships and how they impact us and those around us was captivating to say the least. I received many kudos from the audience on his topic, style and simplicity in presenting his material."