18 years old
Member of the “President’s Committee on People with Intellectual Disabilities”
For the first 94 days of Ryan’s life, he slept in an incubator in Children’s National’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. His big toe was the size of a tic-tac, and he was diagnosed with Dandy Walker syndrome and hydrocephalus, both of which are brain abnormalities that cause excess fluid in the brain. He underwent multiple surgeries to control the fluid buildup and reduce his seizures. Ryan is now a thriving 18 year-old boy and “today Ryan…walks, talks, runs, screams, kicks, throws, and terrorizes the family cat,” says his parents. Ryan also has a service dog named Merit! In 2008, George W. Bush honored Ryan by naming him a member of the “President’s Committee on People with Intellectual Disabilities.” The Cole family started a nonprofit group, the Dandy Walker Alliance Inc., that helps to raise awareness and funding for Dandy-Walker syndrome, as well as to unite other families in this common goal.