ELGIN, Texas (KXAN) — Down Syndrome is the most common genetic disorder in America, marked by slow physical development and mental impediments leaving an adult with the capacity of an eight or nine year old. It is especially tough on Down Syndrome adults, with a shorter life span and more prone to disease. Only one in five Down Syndrome adults hold a job in the outside world, but it is a different story at the Down Home Ranch north of Elgin, where the adult residents live, work hard and now play hard, thanks to a special gift.
When you enter the gate off FM 619 you immediately notice the land, the crops, the livestock, and the rooster that starts the day, and where some three dozen Down Syndrome adults who live there year-round get to work. They handle the animals, harvest the produce, gather eggs, man the gift shop. This non-profit working ranch and farm has been around a quarter-century. Michael Lyngaas has lived there since 1995. He does a lot of work but has a favorite job. He says, “I like to cut grass. It’s fun and also hard work.” He adds, he likes hard work.
Residents have their own homes, and go on field trips to dances and shows. Mostly they work the ranch, and play when they can. Parents who had a tough separation call to make know their loved ones are self sufficient and in good hands. Lizzie Arnold, residential manager at the Down Home Ranch, says, “We give parents peace that their children are being taken care of. That they’re a part of something, they’re working, they’re having fun and they’re pushing towards a good life.”
Down Syndrome adults can be prone to gain weight, and build frustration from lack of productivity. Not here, there’s plenty to do and the new exercise room to enjoy. $10,000 worth of exercise equipment was donated by Concordia University, who’s associate vice president, James Candido, has a Downs child of his own and knows what this equipment means, “They’re excited to have it as much as our student-athletes enjoy their new equipment, these athletes are enjoying working out and getting in shape.”
Some of the residents could not work their old gear. Michael says, “The old equipment, you couldn’t use, but this you use almost all your body and stuff.” The equipment gives them not only a new workout but new goals. Some are now training for the Special Olympics. Michael smiles, “I like competing and I like to win.”
Approximately one in 700 American babies are born with Down Syndrome, 400,000 Americans now have it. The average IQ of a Down Syndrome adult is fifty and many need specialized care as they age. The life expectancy has increased dramatically in recent decades. It is now about sixty years of age.