KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One Knoxville teenager isn't letting her disability keep her down. Instead the talented AP student, author, musician and advocate is working to normalize living with Down syndrome.
Katelyn Cook is busy with honors classes, a part-time job, getting her driver's license, working with diversity groups and making time for her favorite hobby.
"I'm actually working on a book right now that I need to finish. And I'm going back to some of my older ones," she said.
Katelyn's been writing stories for as long as she can remember.
"I would just like take those stories that I would play with through my dolls and change that into writing just as I grew older and moved away from the plastic," she said.
Katelyn is now using her writing for advocacy.
"A lot of people though, like, I'll tell them that I have Down syndrome and they're like, 'you can't have Down syndrome. You don't look like it.' But that's because I have Mosaic Down syndrome."
Mosaic Down syndrome is diagnosed when only some of a person's cells have an extra chromosome, not all of them.
This diagnosis is rare. According to Down Syndrome Education, two or three children in every 100 children diagnosed as having Down syndrome have the Mosaic variety.
"A lot of times I feel certain ways, and a lot of people don't," Katelyn said. "I'm not coordinated. Really, I can't balance to save my life. I can't ride a bike or jump rope."
There are some physical setbacks, too, meaning lots of doctor's appointments.
"The jaw problems didn't start until I was older, but I've had ear infections since I was born. And I had sleep apnea diagnosed when I was like nine," she said.
Katelyn will have surgery to correct her jaw next month, which should also help with her sleep apnea.
In order to help her family with the costs, she's started a GoFundMe.
But through it all, Katelyn doesn't see her diagnosis as a setback.
"Honestly, I feel like you can live with a disability and still do whatever you want, as long as you do it in a way that works for you, even if you have to change some things," she said. "It's challenging, but it's alright to acknowledge that you have a disability and are still living."
Katelyn is using her writing to let others see her positive view.
"I'm trying to set an example for other teenagers to raise awareness for not only Mosaic Down syndrome, but for anything that can potentially make somebody's life more difficult through writing or social media posts or everything," she said.
For anyone out there looking for some inspiration, here's Katelyn's advice.
"Don't look at what everyone else is doing," she said. "Look at what you are doing and what you need to do to be able to do what you want to do."
The senior at South Doyle High School will graduate in the spring, with plans to become a creative writing professor.