A dad in the US whose daughter was born with Down syndrome has found a fun way of sharing her journey, by turning her into a lovable cartoon character.
Psychiatric nurse Fred Wills Sr, 59, created Just Jessica, a cartoon he posts almost daily on Facebook from his home in Stratford, Connecticut, to illustrate the daily adventures of the youngest of his five children, 15-year-old Jessica.
Jessica consistently affirms she wishes to be treated just like everyone else, frequently telling her dad, “I’m just Jessica”, TODAY.com reports.
“That’s really the message behind it,” Mr Wills said.
“She’s just Jessica. She’s not ‘Jessica with Down syndrome’, she’s just Jessica.”
Jessica loves music, her iPhone, sings in her school choir and generally takes regular classes at her school.
She has also recently taken up playing soccer and takes part in many different social activities.
“That’s a difficult thing for many people with special needs to overcome, that sense that they’re different,” Mr Wills said.
“All of us want to be considered part of the group. It’s important for Jessica to be, in her words, popular, and to be treated like everybody else.”
Mr Wills said he started using the cartoons as a way to start conversations with Jessica about bigger issues, as he draws about body image, love, high school, homework and eating habits.
“We use it now as a tool to help her in high school, as she’s learning life skills,” he said.
“That opens it up to talk about learning how to do things and how it’s not easy for her but she can do it just like everybody else.”
Mr Wills said he hopes the drawings inspire others and he encourages Facebook users to share the drawings among their friends, but most of all he said they’re for Jessica.
“Every morning it’s the first thing she looks for,” he said.
“She loves them. She is the apple of our eyes. Everyone who meets her walks away being better for it because she’s terrific.”