Living with Sammantha


Lexi Manning

Sammantha Vongphrachanh is just like everyone else; she loves watching Youtube and Netflix, and enjoys talking about her favorite celebrities and friends. She loves chicken, TV shows, and pens. Despite seeming like a “normal person,” Sammantha has Down Syndrome.

  Down Syndrome is a genetic chromosome disorder that causes developmental and intellectual delays. Most people know or know of someone who has Down Syndrome, but not many people can say they know what it’s like to know someone with Down personally.

  Sr. Alexis Vongphrachanh knows firsthand what it’s like to live with someone who’s cognitively impaired. Many of us at WO know her sister, Sammantha. “It’s not different, because I’m so used to it. Everybody treats her like she’s a kid with special needs, but I treat her like how you treat a normal sister,” Alexis said. “I tease her, and I joke around with her and I’ll mess with her and she’ll know I’m joking. I know she doesn’t know if I’m joking if she doesn’t have a certain tone in her voice, but 99% of the time she knows I’m joking.” Just because Sammantha might be different doesn’t mean she’s treated any different by her sister.

  Like the good sister she is, Alexis is determined to always protect her sister against anything. “Sometimes I ask her, ‘Sammantha, has anybody been mean to you?’ and she always says no.” Thankfully, West Ottawa has a great student population who embrace the differences and uniqueness of all its students,  and know it’s what makes WO a one of a kind school. “Don’t judge a book by its cover, because when you see [the special needs kids] around school they’re always happy and they’re never trying to hurt anybody. They have feelings too,” Alexis said.

  There’s nothing Alexis would alter about Sammantha, either. “We were sitting and eating dinner, and my dad was like, ‘Can you imagine if Sammantha was ever normal?’ and I can’t imagine that. It would be so weird to have a normal sister because I’m so used to her, and honestly, I wouldn’t change anything,” Alexis said.

  And like everyone, Sammantha has some weird quirks that make her who we all know and love. Sammantha loves pens. “Whenever we’re at the mall or walking around at school, if she sees a pen on the floor she’ll snatch it up,” Alexis said, “She has this entire bag full of pens that she’s found.” Does she like pencils? No. She likes her pens, and only her pens. “Pens of any color, any style.”


  Although Sammantha is most likely one of the sweetest people you’ll meet, there are still people who feel weird around people who have some kind of cognitive handicap. “A lot of people don’t know she’s my sister. The ones who know think we’re twins, but I don’t see the resemblance. Sometimes I worry when we’re out in the store [about someone staring] but nobody has a problem or says anything, if they do it’s usually like ‘oh my gosh, she’s so cute,’” Alexis said. “They’ll stare at her, and I notice the stares, but they don’t say anything. It’s not a disgusted thing, usually it’s because they think she’s cute.”

  Sammantha is just like every one of us, she just has an extra chromosome. “She does her own laundry and does her own dishes, even though they’re not that good, but at least she tries,” Alexis said. “At home, she’ll annoy me, and I’ll annoy her.”

  Sammantha plans to graduate this year with the class of 2017, walking down the aisle with some of her best friends and her sister right beside her. If you see Sammantha, give her a high five or a pen or ask how her day is going. She’s just like every one of us, except a little more happy.