Caterina Scorsone advocacy essay
Caterina Scorsone/Instagram

In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Caterina Scorsone penned a heartfelt essay about life with her daughter, Paloma "Pippa" Michaela.

"My daughter Pippa has rainbow-colored eyes," begins Scorsone. "The colors go the other way around, like an upside down rainbow. It starts with an indigo ring around her iris that gives way to a deep evergreen, which sparkles into hazel flecks that turn a sunset shade of golden orange near the center. The colors stand out, differentiated by the Brushfield spots, which come with the 47th chromosome that creates Down syndrome in a person's DNA. Pippa has Down syndrome.

"But Pippa isn't Down syndrome. Pippa is Pippa."


The 'Grey's Anatomy' star describes many of her three-year-old's likes and dislikes: Pippa likes dresses, popcorn, and elephants. She loves her sisters and doesn't like getting her hair washed. You might recognize your own child in that description, too.

Scorsone goes on to explain how Down Syndrome affects Pippa's life.

"She has a visual learning profile that makes it easier for her to learn from pictures and printed words than from hearing a teacher lecture. She could read simple words at 3 years old but took longer than her sister to be able to talk because of differences in her oral motor planning and muscle tone," writes Scorsone.

The doting mom continues: "She is small for her age but her eyes are wise. She always says what she means and doesn't suffer fools. Pippa is different. So are you and so am I."

Scorsone then explains how Pippa has needs that are specific to her body, just like everyone else.

"To have the same opportunities for fulfillment that I have, Pippa needs things like therapies designed to support her learning differences and physical challenges. She needs more media visibility for people who look like her, so that people recognize her as part of their community, and so she can recognize herself in the aspirational characters she sees on TV and in the press. When she's older, she'll need support with some of her life skills (like a lot of us do), and with finding a job that's the perfect fit for her skills and talents. She'll need some supports to get an equal shot at life. She'll need equity."

Scorsone, who's also mom to 8-year-old Eliza and 10-month-old Lucinda, then describes the difference between equity and equality, and why they're important.

"Equity is a more useful word than equality. Equity embraces our differences. Equality sometimes accidentally erases them and in so doing, creates disadvantage and inequality for a great many people," she explains.

"What is equal about Pippa, and about you and me, and all of the other human beings on this planet, is our dignity. We are equal in the very fact of our miraculous existence. We are the same in our right and desire to connect and find fulfillment, to find joy and community. What is different is what each one of us needs in order to have those things."

Scorsone ends her essay with an impassioned call for love and respect for everyone's differences.

"Regardless of the number of chromosomes or abilities we have, the gender we express, the money in our bank account, the color of our skin or the learning profile we respond to best, human beings have the same needs. We need love, safety, dignity and connection," she writes.

"But human beings are different, we are specific, and we need to be loved and supported individually. We are the unique and distinct notes of an infinite musical composition. We are every beautiful rainbow color refracted through the mysterious prism of life. We are equal, different and miraculous, like Pippa's eyes."

Scorsone's essay is powerful for many reasons. The deep love she has for her daughter is apparent in every sentence. But she also eloquently advocates for respect, love, and resources for her daughter and others in their community.

Down Syndrome Awareness Month is dedicated to celebrating people with Down Syndrome and their abilities. We love how Scorsone is using her platform to raise awareness for such an important cause.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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