Actress Caterina Scorsone, known for her role on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ is a rising advocate for Down Syndrome awareness. She is a GLOBAL advocate and spokesperson, aiming to help new parents navigate a Down syndrome diagnosis and raise awareness about the condition. The driving force behind her advocacy is her middle daughter, Pippa, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome in November 2016.
Scorsone’s Reaction to Pippa’s Diagnosis
Speaking to People, the actress said the diagnosis initially scared her due to her lack of preparation and knowledge about Down syndrome. She found a lack of resources available to new parents of children with Down syndrome frustrating. Still, she utilized her years of practice studying human behavior to become a good mother to Pippa:
“When I was pregnant with my first, Eliza, I was so excited and ready to be a mom. I wanted to make sure I was the best mom I could be, so I read all the books and articles I could find on parenting. … By the time Eliza was born, I felt really prepared. Three years later, when Pippa was born, the whole game changed. When we received her Down syndrome diagnosis, I was scared. I was intimidated by my lack of knowledge and skill in this area. I didn’t know what her needs would be or how I would meet them.”
Raising Pippa has taught Caterina to appreciate everyone’s individuality, seeing each person as unique and not subjected to any list of standards. As per GLOBAL, Caterina describes Pippa as determined, insightful, sensitive, fun, and honest. She says that Pippa’s self-acceptance frees her from limiting beliefs:
“One of the most beautiful things about Pippa is how connected she is to her experience. If she wants to do something, she is very excited to do it and thoroughly enjoys it. And if she doesn’t want to do something, she is very connected to her gut and knows what she doesn’t want. Pippa’s self-acceptance frees her limiting beliefs, like worrying about other people’s expectations of her.”
Now, Caterina feels her life has been infused with kindness since Pippa was born, and she found a sense of community with other families with differently-abled children.
How Scorsone Feels About Being Pippa’s Mother
In 2020, Scorsone opened up to Good Morning America about Pippa and her Down Syndrome diagnosis. She maintained that despite her condition, Pippa is just like any other child — full of energy, dreams, and a unique personality.
According to the actress, Pippa has her favorites just like any other toddler. And yes, like many children, she doesn’t enjoy having her hair washed:
“She likes wearing dresses more than pants. She particularly likes dresses with moons and stars on them. She likes popcorn and Totoro and elephants. … She likes toast with butter, trampolining, and lip-syncing to Sia and the ‘Sing’ soundtrack. Pippa likes the color red and does not like having her hair washed in the tub.”
When it comes to learning, Scorsone says that Pippa leans towards a visual learning profile. As the actress revealed, she responds better to pictures and printed words rather than auditory lectures. Although Pippa had trouble talking, she found it easy to read:
“She could read simple words at 3 years old but took longer than her sister to be able to talk because of differences in her oral motor planning and muscle tone.”
Pippa, just like everyone else, has specific needs aligned with how she was made. Her mother says these needs involve therapies to support her learning differences and physical challenges. She also needs media visibility for people who look like her, so she feels like part of the community and can recognize herself in the aspirational characters she sees on TV and in the press.
In the future, Pippa may need help with some life skills and finding a job that suits her skills and talents. This is where Scorsone stresses the importance of equity, a concept she believes is more beneficial than equality because it respects and acknowledges individual differences:
“Equity is a more useful word than equality. Equity embraces our differences. Equality sometimes accidentally erases them and, in so doing, creates disadvantage and inequality for a great many people.”
As the actress states, everyone shares the same needs, and recognizing the worth and uniqueness of each person and valuing differences is essential:
“Regardless of the number of chromosomes or abilities we have, the gender we express, the money in our bank account, the color of our skin, or the learning profile we respond to best, human beings have the same needs. We need love, safety, dignity, and connection.”
It’s a powerful message from a mother who loves her child just the way she is — unique, different, and full of potential. As she puts it, everyone is “equal, different and miraculous, like Pippa’s eyes.”