Sylvia G. Escamilla
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Sylvia G. Escamilla has devoted her life to advocating for people with Down syndrome in Mexico. When Escamilla’s son Eduardo was born with Down syndrome in 1967, she realized very soon that there were no support services for people with Down syndrome or their families in her native country. In 1972, she established a small school for her son and a few other children. This school was the precursor to the John Langdon Down Foundation, Latin America’s first center devoted exclusively to the comprehensive education of people with Down syndrome. Escamilla has directed the foundation for over 30 years, helping it evolve into an oasis for people with Down syndrome in Mexico City. Today more than 500 students attend the school, which in addition to a full academic program, offers an extraordinary art curriculum. The Escuela de Artes Plasticas [School of Fine Arts] helps talented students explore their potential as artists under the tutelage of young Mexican artists. The foundation also provides resources and support to the students’ families and promotes research programs and publications with a positive approach to Down syndrome. The foundation published the first book on Down syndrome in Mexico, El Niño con Sindrome de Down.

Escamilla is executive director of the Mexican Association for Down syndrome and a founding member of the Down Syndrome International Organization. Her honors include the President’s Special Award at the National Down Syndrome Congress in 1981, the Meritorious Award at the National Down Syndrome Society in 1993, the Meritorious Award at the 6th International Down Syndrome Congress in Madrid in 1997, the Service Award given by the American Association on Mental Retardation in 1999 and the Most Distinguished Woman of the Year Award in Mexico City in 1994.