Turning Frustration into Communication

March 7, 2023

Josh Bradley with his parents at Share the Dream

Josh Bradley was a determined kid. He had a drive to communicate, but when he would try to speak the words just didn’t come out right. Being unable to express what he wanted or convey how he felt inevitably led to frustration. For many kids living with Down syndrome like Josh, their understanding outpaces their verbal communication skills.

In the beginning, Josh’s communication was more advanced than other infant his age. Before they were talking, he was using Makaton sign language to communicate his needs and wants. Makaton is a language programme combining signs, symbols, and speech to help people with communication difficulties. This simple sign language enabled baby Josh to express himself in a way other kids his age couldn’t – but when they began to develop speech, he just wasn’t able to keep up.

Every child living with Down syndrome is unique and not all will experience the same features and challenges of the condition. The physical and health dimensions of Josh’s Down syndrome were well-provided for by government-funded support. But support for his communication challenges was almost non-existent. That made his family angry.

The UpsideDowns Education Trust was established by a group of families, including Josh’s, because of the frustration felt by families of kids living with Down syndrome throughout Aotearoa. In the absence of sufficient government-funded options, UpsideDowns enables families to access the life-changing speech and language therapy that empowers their children to speak, read, and write. The charity began in Auckland in 2003 with 10 children, including Josh. UpsideDowns now supports over 300 kids with Down syndrome all over the country. 

Josh was a persistent student. The communication journey is long and often difficult, but he stuck it out as he made his way through the mainstream schooling system. He worked with speech and language therapists, growing his vocabulary and communication skills, allowing him to fully participate in class and develop important social relationships. Through the support of these speech and language professionals and his loving family, Josh was able to leave school along with his peers at the age of 18. 

Josh, today, with his brother Jacob.

Josh is now a remarkable young man. He has studied at Manukau Institute of Technology and is currently employed at his dream job, working at Rainbow’s End theme park. He also recently starred on the dating television show, Down for Love. If not for Josh’s tenacious pursuit of speech and the support of UpsideDowns, the world might have missed out on getting to know this confident, funny, exuberant young man.

Words and images supplied by UpsideDowns

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