Latin couple celebrates on this Valentine's Day the years they have been enjoying their company regardless of Down syndrome
Douglas García and Olvia Curiel enjoy countless activities together. They dance hip hop on Tuesdays, folk music on Thursdays and Fridays do not miss karaoke meetings with family and friends.
"She likes (to interpret songs by) Jenny Rivera," said Douglas, 41. "I like everything … Vicente Fernández too."
Both have Down syndrome but this has not been an obstacle for them to lead a normal life. The couple is so popular that almost every weekend, they already have a party with friends and family to attend.
Luz Curiel, Olvia's mother, said they met 15 years ago when her daughter started working at The Arc, an organization in Downey that offers employment and education opportunities for people with disabilities. Douglas had already been working there for a few years.
Young people became friends and very often they agreed on events outside of work.
Since then Olvia and her family have been with Douglas in good times and bad times. About 10 years ago Douglas's mother passed away. And although, he has brothers in Arizona and Guatemala, he refused to go with them and preferred to stay in Los Angeles.
"He said he didn't want to leave, that his family and his friends were here," Curiel recalled.
So the government got him an apartment where he lives alone and performs a wide variety of earrings regularly.
With the help of a person from the Independent Life Skills (ILS) program, Douglas performs all his daily chores such as cleaning his apartment, cooking, washing clothes, going to the bank and doing his grocery shopping.
This allowed Douglas to continue having a relatively comfortable and worry-free life after the death of his mother.
As time went by, the approach between the two young people was inevitable. On one occasion Douglas took Olvia to dance and shortly after, with the help of those who then took care of him, Douglas bought her flowers and a balloon.
"(The caretaker) was like the cupid," Curiel said, recalling those moments. "Douglas later gave himself the boyfriend title and Olvia liked it too." Six years have passed from this.
The couple is seen daily during working hours as they have a full-time job.
"They work eight hours a day, five days a week," Olivia's mother said. "We love Douglas very much and he is never alone," he adds.
The young man has been able to correspond to this affection and he never misses the celebrations, all the festive dates are spent with his second family.
Live a normal life
Down syndrome is a condition that occurs when a child is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21 which causes a disability in physical and mental development. It is estimated that 1 in 700 babies in the United States are born with Down syndrome.
It is indicated that people with this condition can live up to 60 years or more with a good quality of life, according to the National Down Syndrome Association.
Because young people have equal feelings, like any other person, they also feel the need to have a partner and for many, it is important to get married and have children, said Larry Landauer – executive director of the Orange County Regional Center, who attends People with disabilities.
"People with Down syndrome can have normal children," he explained. "And if the child is born without problems (disability), social services get involved to help. We always want to make sure everyone is well. ”
However, what Landauer stressed was that a couple with Down syndrome should take into consideration that when they get married they may lose government benefits.
"This is something they should consider and sometimes it is better for them to have an engagement ceremony only," he said. "Although they are legally allowed to marry."
Ready for Valentine's Day
Curiel thinks Olvia is not getting married. However, he could not miss that occasion, three years ago, when Douglas arrived at a family event and without much thought he got in and gave his daughter a ring.
“She was happy!”, She said, ensuring that her daughter knows very well what a dating relationship is and what this entails. "He doesn't take off his ring and says he's getting married."
Although both have limited vocabulary, Curiel said they both have the mentality of a teenager. Douglas enjoys the video games of his X-Box and Olvia loves to get ready, make-up and clothes.
"In their free time they like to go shopping, to the movies or to eat," said Olivia's mother, who serves as a driver and companion for the couple.
"We like Chinese food," Douglas said. "Jack in the Box and McDonalds." "Me pizza and chicken bowl," Olvia added.
Douglas, as every year, said he will have flowers and a balloon or a teddy bear for his fiancee. Meanwhile, Olvia chose to keep the gift she will give her boyfriend a secret.
Curiel said he did not know if the couple will become more than just boyfriends but for now he enjoys having company.
“Before Olivia wanted to have children. Now he says no, ”said his mother. “Sometimes he says he is going to marry Douglas and I say:‘ How are you going to do if he doesn't know how to cook? She replies that they are going to eat pizza or Crazy Chicken, ”he adds out loud.