Finding Her Voice | Global Down Syndrome Foundation

Finding Her Voice

From Down Syndrome WorldTM 2019 Issue 4 of 4

Multi-Talented Performer Meg Ohsada Has Learned That, When It Comes To Communication, Words Aren’t Always Necessary.


This article was published in the award-winning Down Syndrome World™ magazine. Become a member to read all the articles and get future issues delivered to your door!

MEG OHSADA, a Canada native who happens to have Down syndrome, has become an international superstar known for her competitive figure skating and dancing with four Special Olympic medals and counting. She is also known for her extraordinary, widely-collected artwork. At just 25-years-old, Meg also has her artwork displayed and purchased at prestigious galleries around the world. And believe it or not, that’s not all she does! She recently took up rhythmic gymnastics and modeling, too.

Born to Japanese parents who immigrated to Canada, Meg is one of three girls. Although Meg is nonverbal, she communicates her powerful and inspirational messages through her passion for sports, fashion, advocacy, and art.

Her accomplishments serve as an inspiration to the Down syndrome community and she recently began modeling to continue her advocacy work for people who are differently-abled.

“Meg is the family’s backbone,” says her mother, Noriko Ohsada. “Her gentle presence has given us love, strength, inspiration, and hope for the future.

A DEDICATED FAMILY

Noriko, who immigrated to Toronto, Canada, from Japan with her husband, Kaoru Ohsada, did not know what Down syndrome was until Meg was born in 1993. In fact, Noriko recalls, she had to learn the word “chromosome” in English when a doctor told her that additional testing was necessary.

Noriko remembers being very scared when she researched the condition. She read that Meg would not live long and would need to be institutionalized. Thankfully, the medically inaccurate information did not deter her and Kaoru’s belief in Meg’s abilities.

From the time Meg was born, her parents noticed she was a happy baby and an energetic, passionate child. Shortly after Meg was born, Noriko and Kaoru had two more daughters: Sari, now 23, and Juli, now 22.

Meg always had difficulties with verbal communication and continued to struggle to talk after undergoing speech therapy.

In 1997, searching for a fresh start and better access to medical care, the family moved from Toronto to Canmore, a small town in Alberta, Canada at the edge of the Canadian Rockies. That’s where Meg’s remarkable artistic abilities began to take shape.

“As my children are close in their age, I always introduced the same activities to all of them,” Noriko says. “Figure skating was the perfect activity for the girls to be athletic and beautiful at the same time. I truly enjoyed watching them.”

“We noticed Meg could remember movements with music very quickly,” Noriko says. “That’s when we realized that performing arts was a way of self-expression.”

LOUDER THAN WORDS

Meg took to figure skating like a natural, impressing her family and her instructors by skating through intricate choreography, remembering every step. At age 8, she joined a local figure skating club and eventually began attending a weekly Special Olympics figure skating program in Calgary, about an hour from Canmore. Meg gets on the ice four to six days a week, for an hour or so a day. Plus, she does yoga, gymnastics, and other physical activities to stay in shape.

She has excelled as a figure skating competitor, earning two gold medals at the 2019 Special Olympics Alberta Winter Games and two silver medals at the 2013 Special Olympics World Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In 2015, she competed in the Canada Games, which features athletes of all abilities. She continues to inspire other skaters with and without Down syndrome at her home rink in Canmore.

Meg began her dance career at age 14 and attends four dance classes per week. She is also a rhythmic gymnast, a sport she took up at age 18.

She competed in dance in both the 2015 and 2017 Special Olympics World Games, placing fourth at the 2017 Winter Games in Austria. In 2017, she also performed a ballet solo with Ignite Dance at Banff Centre in Banff, Canada, near her hometown of Canmore.

A MULT-TALENTED ARTIST

Movement isn’t Meg’s only form of expression. At age 21, Meg began a career as an artist, taking classes at the Indefinite Arts Centre in Calgary.

Her artwork has appeared in galleries in Hong Kong, Seoul, and South Korea, and she was the featured artist at a local gallery, artsPlace, in Canmore.

Meg’s favorite piece is an abstract self-portrait of herself dancing.

“She expresses herself through art, and she loves public exhibition opportunities where she can get that recognition from other people,” Noriko says.

Last year, Meg took up modeling as a way to showcase the beauty and talent of people who are differently-abled. “I believe Sari and Juli learned many wonderful lessons from Meg, including her enthusiasm, optimism, and compassion toward others,” Noriko states.

Meg encourages everyone to work hard and find their own voice. Through her multi-faceted art forms, she shares an important message: “Do what you love, and great things can happen.”


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