He tried to hide how disappointed he felt. But he was extremely excited at first. After all, he had been looking forward to this moment for quite a while. An experience like this one was extremely rare. But he found himself unsure how to react after someone told him something unexpected. Suddenly, he had a bunch of thoughts in his head. But one question stuck out. Did he travel this far only to experience disappointment?
Sam was used to dealing with adversity, so this wasn’t going to deter him. You see, he has Down syndrome, a genetic condition that alters the way an individual develops intellectually and physically. But while people with Down can live normal lives, even with a low IQ. This can be accomplished through social and educational support, which allows them to become productive members of society. But Sam has never allowed Down Syndrome to stop him.
Sam worked hard to gain independence, and be seen as everyone else. In his early 20s, he decided to leave his parents’ home and live in a house with his friends – Megan, Lucy, and Hilly – who have Down syndrome too. His friend Lewis, who has Williams syndrome, also lives with them in their Brighton, UK home. And although things weren’t easy for Sam at first, this new life was the start of an amazing adventure.
Sam and his roommates have daily activities that they have to follow. This includes doing chores, running errands, working at a charity shop, and taking life skill classes. They even learned how to surf when they went on holidays together. They’ve also competed in the Special Olympics’ equestrian event. It seemed like Sam was leading a normal life with his roommates. But then, he was given the chance to do something extra special all on his own.
A year before, Sam’s younger brother, Jack, joined the Royal Army. Then, Sam got word that Jack was picked to serve at Windsor Castle in the Queen’s Guard. It was an honor for troops, who were picked from the British military’s five regiments. When Sam learned that his brother Jack was going to become a member of this elite group of soldiers, he was very proud of his sibling. And he wanted to personally tell one person how he felt.
Sam was very happy and excited when he learned that he would be able to visit his brother Jack at Windsor Castle. It had been quite a while since he’d seen his brother. So, he was looking forward to seeing Jack as a royal soldier. All he had to do now was pack his bags and head out to Windsor. But he didn’t realize that things would turn out very differently when he visited his brother at work.
Sam was greeted by Coldstream Guards Sgt. Baggot-Moore and Lt. Bragger. They made sure that he got a lovely tour of Windsor Castle before taking him to see Jack. Along the way, Sam learned all kinds fun facts about the castle’s history. Then Sam asked, “In here, is there any fighting battles?” Sgt. Baggot-Moore smiled and replied, “At the moment, I hope not.” Then Lt. Bragger added, “No fighting battles here, just looking very smart.” But then, the Sgt., and Lt., dropped a bombshell on Sam, and it totally blew him away.
Lt. Bragger told Sam, “When you speak to your brother. He won’t speak back to you. He’ll stand very very still.” Unfortunately, this was a rule that the soldiers of the Queen’s Guard had to obey. While they’re on duty, the guards’ facial expressions must remain neutral, and they can’t move. Sam was stunned. He came here to talk to his brother and now that didn’t seem possible. Fortunately, Lt. Bragger had a contingency plan.
Lt. Bragger told Sam, “When he comes off and finishes his work today, you can have a chat with him and a cup of tea.” As they finally walked up to Jack, Sam felt a sense of relief. “This is the first time I’m seeing him in action,” explained Sam. Lt. Bragger pointed Sam to a soldier with a bearskin hat, a long coat, and a rifle. The man was standing by a wall, motionless. “That is your brother,” said Lt. Bragger. While Jack couldn’t talk, he did acknowledge Sam.
Sam knew that he could approach his brother when he saw Jack stomp his foot. But Lt. Bragger reminded him that wouldn’t be able to talk to him. However, he could stand next to him and take a photo with his brother, which he did. While Jack remained stoic, Sam smiled proudly. But after the photo, Jack did something that stunned Sam.
Sam jumped back as Jack stomped his foot once again. This was so unexpected that he ran to Lt. Bragger. But the Lt., explained that Jack was just being playful, since he couldn’t talk. After the photo, Sam’s tour through the castle continued. Then, they visited the barracks, where the guardsmen resided. That’s when Sam discovered there was another surprise in store for him.
Lt. Bragger escorted Sam into the barracks. Then he said, “There’s your brother down there.” As soon as Sam saw his brother on the other side of the hall, he ran up to him and yelled, “Jack!” He stretched his arms out and gave his brother a hug, which Jack returned. Since he was officially off-duty, Jack could talk to him. “I miss you,” Sam told him. “I miss you too,” said Jack. The two of them had a lot to talk about.
His brother Jack might be part of the Queen’s Guard, but Sam wasn’t doing too bad either. He and his roommates were part of “The Specials,” an incredible documentary web series. The show posts 15-minute episodes on the website, and each one follows Sam and his friends as they live their lives. At first, the web series seemed like an amateurish idea. But then, it caught the attention of some very important people.
“Game of Thrones” producer D.B. Weiss was the first to notice the series. He then showed it to HBO executive Carolyn Strauss. Then Strauss reached out to the web series’ producers Daniel May and Katy Lock. And with the help of Rosie O’Donnell, they pitched the series to Oprah Winfrey. The series was then acquired by the Oprah Winfrey Network for two seasons. After that, the show earned plenty of praise.
“The Specials” have given people a better understanding of the lives of people with Down syndrome. This is such a rare concept in the entertainment industry, which is why it was so heavily praised. So far, it’s won “Best Web Series” by the National Youth Disability Film Awards UK. Some have even compared the incredible portrayal of these young adults to MTV’s “The Real World”.