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Childhood sweethearts with Down syndrome to tie the knot

Childhood Sweethearts With Down Syndrome Engaged After 30 Years

Love is in the air for a pair of childhood sweethearts in Texas. Since meeting each other in a Down syndrome support group as toddlers, Austin Underwood and Jessica Smith have been inseparable, and now they're preparing to tie the knot!


"I want to marry her because I love her and she's my very own best friend."

Fort Worth Magazine spoke with Austin's mother, Jan Underwood, as part of a profile of the engaged couple.

"Austin and Jessica actually met when they were toddlers ... they got engaged at Christmas 2012."

Jessica's mother, Georgia Smith, told NBC right after she gave birth, her doctor told her, "This is a bummer ... this child is a mongoloid." Austin's mom had a similar experience. She says her doctor said, "you don't have to take him home." But neither mom let horrible comments like those get to them.

"Jan convinced coaches to let Austin play on their teams. Georgia encouraged Jessica's love of theater."

They fought to give their kids normal lives, Jan says.

According to Fort Worth Magazine, Austin and Jessica's families have spent their Christmases together for the past 30 years, and Christmas 2012 was an extra special one.

Austin got down on one knee to ask for his sweetheart's hand in marriage. This was, of course, after a romantic limo ride around town to see the beautiful Christmas lights.

Jessica and Austin live on their own. The Star-Telegram reports Austin currently works at a local Italian restaurant. Jessica also has a job.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, individuals with Down syndrome are becoming "increasingly integrated" into society, specifically in the workforce.

The happy couple will tie the knot at the end of June.

Join the discussion

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cgssnavickas May 19 2014 at 4:42 PM

A friend of mine had a Down Syndrome baby 33 years ago, beautiful girl. My friend was told that her daughter would never have a "normal" life, that she should be prepared to be her caregiver for life.

As years went by her daughter Joy went to school, played games, went to a trade school, got married, and had a daughter. She's been married for 10 years now, holds a job, and runs the household with her husband.

I guess that doctor was right. She doesn't have a normal life...She has an extrordinary one.

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R May 19 2014 at 3:53 PM

I've been around a baby and adults who have Downs Syndrome. They are the most beautiful, loving and heart-warming human beings. I love them. All human beings should have the capacity to like, to love, to be so generous in spirit. They have an immense willingness to help other people and want to make everyone happy and smile. This is a fabulously happy story. May the gloriously happy couple live a long and happy life together.

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beany1530 May 19 2014 at 6:19 PM

I worked in a group home. We have it backwards. They are the ones with gifts of the spirit. We "normal" ones have a lot to learn. They are miles ahead of us in that department.

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ral94121 May 19 2014 at 12:30 PM

When my daughter was born in 1969 she had some breathing issues for the first three days. A nurse told me that she might need extra help in life. A year later a doctor told me she had multiple problems and we should consider putting her in a state facility. Well 45 years later she has been living independently since she was 30. She has had part-time employment since she was 16. She has served as a client advocate on various committees and spoken to parents' groups of newly diagnosed children. Since she was 18 she has sought out her own social opportunities including a theater group and swimming for Special Olympics. She may not be able to discuss Putin's motives but she has a higher ethical since than most people I know.

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THE GREAT NANCINATOR May 19 2014 at 7:52 PM

For my first child, the conception was off because she was a honeymoon baby. At my 3rd month, the doctor had a blood test done instead of amniocentesis due to my fear of losing the baby. The results came with a 75% of my child being a Downs Baby...and he actually gave me a list of centers where I could have an abortion. As you can tell, I kept her.

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2 replies
hattie54 THE GREAT NANCINATOR May 19 2014 at 8:56 PM

Who is going to watch her when you're old and feeble?

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5 replies
Joan THE GREAT NANCINATOR May 19 2014 at 10:24 PM

You are a special and loving person, Nanci. And, certainly have found out that a Down child is special and loving, as well. Blessings to you both. :)

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kwhodges May 19 2014 at 6:35 PM

May the happy couple have many wonderful years together. Congratulations Austin and Jessica!

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Mary Rye May 19 2014 at 2:26 PM

Good for them! We can learn a lot from folks with Down Syndrome - their optimism, sweetness, and lack of guile.

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vincent.barnes1 May 19 2014 at 7:27 PM

Love to hear true love comes from true love.hope you have many years together...

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pdberrigan May 19 2014 at 1:40 PM

congratulations!! parents focused on the "ability" in disability and see what happened..
so happy for all of you

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LimoBarbie May 19 2014 at 12:57 PM

That's really a sweet story. I hope they have a long and happy life together!

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