Ella and Eavan Kuehnle were born three minutes apart. They are identical twins with one distinction: Ella has Down syndrome while Eavan does not. Their experiences as young girls will grow and change, and diverge as they develop into young women.
Shortly after returning home from work Jonathan Kuehnle lifts daughter Ella while Eavan sits at the dining room table completing homework.
While the Kindergarten class watches the film, Stuart Little, Ella stands up from the other seated students. "Sit-down Ella," her teacher said. Ella and the other children with special needs weave in and out of the main Kindergarten classroom.
Ella watches Little Mermaid while in the living room of her home. “She lives in the moment,” Jonathan said. “You watch her watch cartoons and she is in the cartoon. She has entire movies memorized.”
During the lunch hour the twins sit next to each other in the cafeteria. Ella and Eavan are in the same Kindergarten class at Mount Logan Elementary School in Chillicothe, Ohio. Jonathan and Kim enrolled their twins in the school because it was the only one in the area with a special education program. Eavan explains, “Ella is in two classes. She’s in a class that I’m in and in the other class she’s all by herself.”
Kim places a headband on Ella's head while Eavan watches on with a tiara on her head. When Kim discovered Ella was born with Down syndrome she “cried every day for three months. “It’s hard to let go of dreams for your children. You want them to succeed and be astronauts or what ever they want to do. You want them to achieve more than what you did. Jonathan told me that it didn’t matter what Ella has because she is still our baby. I cried also because he was more accepting that I was.”
Ella sits atop the patio table outside of her home. Ella has undergone three intubations on her ears and is more susceptible to a common cold. Considering the history of Down syndrome, however, Jonathan and Kim feel lucky that her health is not a full-blown ailment.
Pictures from a coloring book by Ella and Eavan Kuenhle hang in the living room of their families home in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Jonathan looks towards Ella who walks outside. "She may need some assistance when she's older," said Jonathan. "She's 6 right now, so we just don't know."
Jonathan Kuehnle tosses a plastic baseball to his daughter, Eavan, while her twin sister Ella watches on.
Ella stands in the sunlight coming through the glass doors of the dining room. Jonathan and Kim Kuehnle know that there are too many beginnings for their twins to decide on any ends. They can only hope that they are doing their best to provide an independent future for all of their children.
After crossing the finish line at the Buddy Walk Jonathan Kuehnle holds his Down syndrome daughter Ella in his arms. The picture of Ella is being held up by her identical twin sister Eavan. The Buddy Walk is an annual event that raises money for the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio.