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Homecoming queen with Down syndrome inspires her classmates in Missouri

Erik M. Lunsford / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

Senior Sara Marshall hugs Barbara Behlmann during lunch on Thursday, May 10, 2012, at Hazelwood West High School in Hazelwood, Mo. Behlmann is a homecoming queen, a cheerleader and clearly one of the most popular students at Hazelwood West High School in suburban St. Louis. She also has Down syndrome. But she was raised in a home where her parents never put limits on her, and she has taken that message to heart as she prepares to graduate Saturday.

Erik M. Lunsford / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

Senior Barbara Behlmann walks to class following lunch on Thursday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch tells the story of student Barbara Behlmann, a popular graduating senior at Hazelwood West High who has Down Syndrome:

Early on, the Behlmanns decided they would teach their daughter to do more than just survive.

"We never put limits on Barbara. We never said 'You can't do this,' or 'You're not able to do this,'" Karen Behlmann said. "It was whatever she wanted to do, then we were going to do it — whatever it took."

Speech and language therapies, at day care, school and home were constant throughout the rest of her childhood, they say. Chatter with a sister, another girl the Behlmanns adopted, helped too.

Along the way, Barbara's personality became clear — a happy, outgoing girl with no fear.

That's how her fellow cheerleaders at Hazelwood West describe her.


Erik M. Lunsford / AP

Teacher Bridget Hanna admires Barbara Behlmann's thank you card to her job training employer at Hazelwood West High School.

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