A Cookstown man with both Down’s Syndrome and Autism is proving that being born differently-abled, doesn’t mean you can’t live life to the full.
Christopher Graham, who works at Superstars Cafe in the town, is embarking on a three week road trip to bustling Marrakesh with his big sister Siobhan.
And even though Siobhan, who works as a locum GP in Belfast, said it can take her brother up to two hours to eat just a little bowl of beans, he loves travelling and experiencing new cultures despite the upheaval.
In an exclusive interview with the Mail, Siobhan said the 31-year-old’s journeys are inspiring others who have children with disabilities.
“He has done quite a lot of travelling,” she explained.
“We have done quite a lot of road trips all over the world... we’re leaving for Marrakesh on Sunday and I’m going to blog it as I go.”
One of Christopher’s statements is ‘I need a holiday’Siobhan Graham
After flying into the Malaga and taking the bus to port town Algiceras, the pair will take a ferry across to Ceuta.
“From then we’re going by car down the west coast of Morocco, it’s an unusual route, to a place called Chefchaouen - the blue city,” Siobhan explained. “Then we’re going down to Fes and then from Fes to Marrakesh.
“Christopher will be with me for about three weeks - he’ll be back the second of February.”
But things are not always easy for Superstars Cafe worker Christopher said 39-year-old Siobhan.
“Christopher has Autism, which is something we never noticed until my mum passed away,” she went on. “He takes a long time to do things - from about three hours to eat lunch, to two hours to just eat a wee bowl of beans because he has a bit of OCD in the way he has to do things.”
But this has not stopped the budding traveller from taking on adventure after adventure. Along with his sister, Christopher has travelled to Costa Rica, where Siobhan said he was “shocked by the hummingbirds and the monkeys” and has also done roads trips around the US and Canada as well as smaller trips.
“We go away two or three times a year.
“I would take him away for a big trip and two smaller ones - to give my dad a bit of a break as well,” Siobhan said.
“He is so excited. One of his favourite statements is ‘I need a holiday’.”
As for her blog Medicine, My Brother & Me, which can be found here, the doctor said she has had some really positive responses to tales about her trips away with Christopher.
“I have had a lot of great feedback from people who have family members with disabilities.
“A woman in Scotland contacted me, who has just had a wee girl with Down’s Syndrome, she was just so happy to see Christopher’s life - what a fulfilled life he has had so far.”