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Closing The Loop: Michelle Gilliam

Warren Miller

A few years ago, Michelle Gilliam and the man who’s now her husband lived and worked near New York City, Michelle in media and her then-boyfriend for a shipping company. Her boyfriend was transferred to Jacksonville, and Michelle was in love. She came with him to Jacksonville and they married.

Michelle Gilliam waited until relatively late to have her first child. He was worth the wait, and Michelle has reorganized her life around his needs. “I was older, 37, and i knew the risks. But I had wanted to establish a career first, and I got to do many of the things I’d wanted to do,” she said.

Testing during her pregnancy confirmed that her baby had Down syndrome.

“I had done a lot of research, and I learned that there are a lot of resources available,” Gilliam said. “It’s not as scary as it was 20 to 30 years ago. I met parents of Down syndrome children, and a number of adults with the condition, who were amazing people. They’re just like anyone else.”

Harrison Gilliam is now 2½, and according to his mother, he’s a handful, like every other child that age. “He’s developmentally delayed, so he’s been slower to walk and talk," she said. "But he goes to a regular preschool, and they treat him just like everyone else. And they love him there.”

Michelle Gilliam’s life has changed, and for the better.

“Things that seemed so important or bad, now are trivial,” she said.

She’s also become an entrepreneur to accommodate Harrison’s therapy, allowing her to do freelance public relations work at night and on weekends.

“He’s changed my perspective on life,” she explained. “I look at Harrison’s abilities, not his disabilities. I have a much more positive view about everything.”

Warren Miller is a writer and financial executive who lives near St. Augustine, Florida.