World Down Syndrome Day 2020 – Day 6
Alex Procopis and Joe Surawski are two young men from Brisbane with full, interesting lives. They are best friends who share a love of music and theatre, but they also love working out at the gym with their trainer Michael Adams.
Alex and Joe both have Down syndrome and autism. Verbal and written communications are not their main form of expression. They use their body language and their actions to tell their story.
Michael has been training the boys at the gym for a few years and has learnt a lot from them about the value of having honest emotions and expressions.
‘I work in gymnasiums amongst the mirrors, furtive glances and desires to impress. Gyms are of course more than that too. I love this world but sometimes I need to be saved from it.
Along come the boys with their willingness to work and have fun in the ego-free zone that they represent. In doing this, they remind me to be honest with others and especially with myself,’ says Michael.
‘They allow me to have less of an emotional mask. When they are having a bad day, you know about it. They aren’t worried about showing their real emotions. if they are upset, then you know. If they are happy then you know.’
Michael says that most people feel the need to put on a ‘work face’ or a ‘happy face’ when they are actually feeling the opposite. He has appreciated the honesty that comes from Alex and Joe’s genuine physical expression that communicates what they think and how they feel. He has taken a leaf out of their book and become more comfortable with his own emotional expression.
‘I’m not as worried about the judgement that comes from showing my emotions. I used to be really worried about what people thought of me,’ says Michael.