This Teenager With Down Syndrome Is Taking the Cheerleading World by Storm, and We're Inspired

Jody Chisholm
Jody Chisholm

For 13-year-old Audrey Chisholm — a flyer on the cheerleading squad who also happens to have Down syndrome — the sky is truly the limit. After her squad won nationals, her mom Jody Chisholm spoke about how life-changing her daughter's cheerleading experience has been ever since she joined a team for children with special needs at age 5.

"I get choked up when I tell people about this experience," Jody told POPSUGAR. "I love to see Audrey this happy and with so many friends surrounding her. My heart is full of joy! While I love this for Audrey, I also admire every one of her peers for their selfless actions. Together, they are making this a better world for people with different abilities."

"Together, they are making this a better world for people with different abilities."

Although Audrey has met tons of friends through her various cheerleading teams, there were some bumps in the road due to a coaching change.

"She was successful [on one team] until a coaching change, and then she was excluded from competing even though the event had accommodations for athletes with disabilities," said Jody. "It was an ugly battle and we left brokenhearted. We were introduced to her current coaches three years ago and the experience had been a complete 180 change."

Despite the setback, it's been smooth sailing for Audrey ever since she joined the Mokena Burros junior varsity cheerleading team, an inclusive recreational program 30 miles outside of Chicago, IL.

Along with all the new friends she's made, the 13-year-old has also learned important lessons about teamwork and setting goals.

"She absolutely learned what it means to be part of a team that loves and trusts each other," said Jody. "That friends can be counted on when fear takes over. She learned how to set goals and reach them even when they seem unattainable. For example, she wanted to be a flyer but needed a strong core. She worked hard, stayed true to her goal and the coach put her in the center of the routine as a flyer."

Audrey's biggest accomplishment to date? Winning the 2019 Pop Warner National Cheer & Dance Championships in Orlando, FL with her team on Dec. 6.

"The nicest compliment is when people ask where Audrey is in the routine," explained Jody. "Unless someone tells you there is a child with Down syndrome on the floor you wouldn't know it."

And obviously, Audrey's teammates are just as fond of her as she is of them.

"Not only did Audrey and her squad win Nationals but these amazing girls unanimously voted her their Homecoming Queen this past October," said Jody. "It has been a dream come true experience."