Brothers show TikTok what it’s like to live with Down syndrome: 'People with disabilities can do anything'

Alex Lasker
·4-min read

Zach and Pat Valentine are the infectiously gleeful brother duo you’ve been seeing all over your For You Page.

The two budding personalities, who have amassed over 5M followers on TikTok alone, have dedicated themselves to sharing with others on the platform what it’s like to live with Down syndrome, which Zach, who just turned 20, was born with.

Together on TikTok, Zach and Pat not only answer user-submitted questions on Down syndrome, but also provide a glimpse into their delightful friendship and daily shenanigans with their family.

Pat, a 26-year-old California native whose family originally hails from Mexico, told In The Know that well before he was able to understand his brother’s condition, he knew he wanted to be his best friend.

“I was six years old when I found out I was going to have a little brother and it was the most exciting thing ever,” he recalled. “I always wanted a brother to just hang out with, play video games with and just be best friends with.”

Even though the two have been #siblinggoals since day one, it was Zach’s passion for social media that eventually led the two brothers to their newfound stardom, which Pat says wasn’t at all surprising considering his brother’s charisma.

“[Zach] has always wanting to do social media for a living,” said Pat. “So just doing it makes sense. His vibrant smile, care, charismatic personality and overall positive attitude always make sense.”

Although their social media presence is mostly rosy, Pat told In The Know the two have faced many challenges that have stemmed from people’s misinformed views about Zach and what it means to live with Down syndrome.

“Growing up … people had these negative perceptions of ‘he can’t do things’ or ‘he’s just a person with Down syndrome, he’s not going to amount to much in life,'” Pat revealed.

“It didn’t really make sense to me where these negative perceptions came from,” he added. “To me, he was my whole world. He was special. He was amazing. He was kind. He was funny.”

Pat’s approach for coping with such obstacles was two-fold — he surrounded himself with all the right people and did his best not to care about the rest.

“I know that sounds simpler, easier said than done, but not caring was one of the best things in order for my and Zach’s relationship to succeed and thrive,” he revealed. “So I was very picky with the friends I chose. If they didn’t see my brother in this positive light and automatically saw him in a negative light because he has Down syndrome … I didn’t want them in my life.”

At this point, Zach and Pat have become popular enough on social media where it’s become a full-time job for them, which has proven to be a dream for their brotherly bond.

“Filming videos has impacted our lives very positively,” Pat explained. “If we weren’t doing this, I’d be working an 8-to-5 job, so being with Zach 24/7 has only helped our relationship grow even more.”

The duo’s mom, Linda Cota, told In The Know her family has been overwhelmed by the positive reception her sons have seen on TikTok, calling them both “trailblazers” for the disabled community.

“What the boys have accomplished in the last year, as far as awareness, representation and breaking those barriers, has even come as a pleasant surprise to all of us,” she said.

“In such a short time, we have seen an overwhelming amount of support, numbers that are unheard of in the Down syndrome and disability community,” she added. “They are setting the pace for others to want to do the same.”

Through their ever-growing platform, Pat says he hopes he and Zach can continue to change people’s minds when it comes to preconceived notions of the disabled community.

“Our audience, I want them to realize that people with Down syndrome can do anything, people with disabilities can do anything, and not put limitations on individuals because of the way they look,” Pat remarked. “And if that happens, I think everything else will fall into place.”

If you liked this story, read about Jiya Day, the 20-year-old TikToker with cerebral palsy.

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