Gigi's Playhouse mentor thrives despite obstacles based on perception of Down syndrome

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (WLS) -- At Gigi's playhouse in Hoffman Estates Monday, Farzin Sharyari went through his script for an upcoming podcast with development strategist Franco Gianni.

"To the people of the Down syndrome community, like myself, I ask the whole world to be accepting," he says as he rehearses.

Their relationship goes back to 2008, when 21-year-old Sharyari first game to Gigi's as a participant in the adult programming course for those living with Down syndrome.

"He's definitely a person that really wants to see himself grow and he wants others to see the growth that he has," Gianni said. "He is actually a tutor for math, a tutor for literacy. And he's kind of a role model now for a lot of the participants that we have here."

About 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome in the United States each year. Despite a change in attitudes over the years, advocates say they biggest obstacle they face continues to be perception.

"The same story: pretty much every parent, when their children is born with Down syndrome, is they get condolences instead of congratulations," Gianni said.

That's why role models like Sharyari are so important.

"I was like 23 years old when I moved to my apartment," he recalled. "I'm making a dish, it's really good to cook. Today I'm creating spinach and sausage pasta."

And cooking is not just a favored hobby. It's Sharyari's goal to write a cookbook and start his own business. They sky's the limit, and that's exactly his advice for others like him.

"Don't think, just do it. No matter what you always do, just be yourself. Don't be scared," he advised.
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