cristinaiusso.jpgIn the Greater Toronto section of the Star, January 7, 2015, I read about Cristina Iusso. She is the only five year old I know who has her own thriving business. It’s called Cristina’s Tortina Shop, and she sells cupcakes. Tortina is Italian for little cake. Her mother, Mary Iusso, keeps the business running smoothly until Cristina has finished high school.

At the top of the article, there’s a big picture of Cristina wearing a chef’s hat, holding one of her little cakes. Behind her, a sign reads: I wouldn’t change you for the world but I promise to change the world for you, one cupcake at a time.

Cristina has three copies of the 21st chromosome. Her disorder is called Down syndrome, a label associated with barriers, stereotypes and negativity. A social worker in a Brampton hospital told Cristina’s parents, Mary and Maruizio, not to expect much of their daughter, that she’d never be a doctor or a lawyer.

Mary and Maruizio didn’t care about that. They never expected their two older children to choose those careers either. But they wanted Cristina to have the best life she could after completing high school. Mary did research. There would be nothing for Cristina to do after she graduated, so Mary quit her high profile job to establish a legacy for her daughter and provide a place where people with DS could excel.

She focused on a bakery, and after four years working successfully out of her home, Mary opened Cristina’s Tortina Shop in a Brampton plaza on Ray Lawson Boulevard. Customers from across the GTA come to Cristina’s for cupcake goodies such as red velvet with a shortbread cookie heart and the signature Serendipity, inspired by trisomy 21 with three flavours and at least 21 sprinkles.

Cristina’s Tortina Shop employs seven people ages 18 to 52, who have DS or autism. Mary says she started the business because just talking about Down syndrome would accomplish nothing. At the bakery, staff and customers interact naturally. People coming to the shop see that individuals with special-needs have ability and are capable of producing an excellent product.

After she opened the bakery, Mary was barraged with calls from parents seeking work for their special-needs children. Most young people, having finished school, spend their days watching television, “rather than learning skills, going to college and getting out into the working world,” said Mary.

Outside the bakery, Mary also does her share of advocating for people with developmental disabilities by raising funds, volunteering for the Special Olympics, and organizing an all-abilities soccer team for kids 5 – 9 years old.

“Everyone serves a purpose in this world – no matter how many chromosomes you have, or what your circumstances are,” says Mary. “Cristina picked us, and I don’t want to disappoint her.”

You can’t help your chromosomes but Mary is proof that you can create circumstances that embrace the particular talents of individuals.



Source: The perfect recipe for raising awareness. By Leslie Ferenc, Star Reporter.

Photo credit: Toronto Star


An Interview with Voices 4 Ability

by donnak on November 5, 2014

Voices 4 Ability is an online radio station that provides a variety of content, both entertaining and resourceful, for people with disabilities and their allies. On September 25, I was interviewed by Jodie Eleanor, MSW, RSW. We had a great time and covered some topics that will be of interest to many who read this blog. Enjoy!


Plight of People with Developmental Disabilities, Part 3

October 17, 2014

  Since the Final Report of the Select Committee on Developmental Services was tabled in July 22 2014, has anything been done? Has Minister Jazek followed through on any of her six promises? Monique Taylor, one of the Committee members, addressed the legislative assembly of Ontario. Here, in part, are her words: “I am proud […]

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Plight of People with a Developmental Disability in Ontario, Part Two

September 3, 2014

Minister Jaczek’s Plan for the $810 Million On August 8, 2014, I commented on the Final Report of the Select Committee on Developmental Services. I addressed Minister Jaczek’s statement of July 22, 2014, specifically the first two initiatives on her list of six that she suggests would be strengthened by the investment of $810 million […]

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The Plight of People with Developmental Disabilities in Ontario

August 8, 2014

Crisis is now a Pre-requisite for Service On October 3, 2012, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario gave unanimous consent to a motion to appoint a Select Committee of Developmental Services. The Select Committee would consider and report to the House its observations and recommendations with respect to the urgent need for a comprehensive developmental services […]

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Voices of Autism

July 6, 2014

Tribute to Reese Matthew Kirk February 19, 1970 – July 6, 2010 I heard a familiar voice behind me and turned around but no one was there. When I heard the voice again I started back down the block and waited, knowing it would only be moments until the call rang out again. At the […]

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A Mother’s Best Advice for Parents of Children with Disabilities…..

June 19, 2014

“How do you cope with all this?” friends asked every time we got together with our children. “I couldn’t do what you’re doing.” My friends were referring to Matthew, our first child. After suffering oxygen loss at birth in 1970, he sustained severe brain damage. According to the head pediatrician at Sick Kids Hospital, he’d […]

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Where Do Your Talents Lie?

May 14, 2014

Where do your talents lie? Please watch this short video. Could you ever aspire to the achievements of these young people? Kids like this are generally considered unteachable and not able to fit in. Really?

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Co-parenting with My Daughter

April 27, 2014

My daughter Kelley and I have decided to co-parent. She’s probably deciding on our new baby right now. I know she’ll pick a good one. I’m not a research person but Kelley can discuss anything from car mechanics to home-made bacon jam. She already has three babies, but they’re strictly hers. At least the two […]

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The Afterlife: Do You Believe?

March 20, 2014

When you’re dead, you’re dead. Gone, never to be heard from again. No funeral for me please or celebration of life. Those words have become a cliché to me and the celebrations are awkward. What does one talk about after the first ten minutes? Before he died Dad said, “Throw me in a ditch. I […]

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