Andy: Living with Prader-Willi Syndrome

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Andy was born with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), a genetic disorder that affects appetite, growth, metabolism, cognitive function, and behavior. People with PWS have a constant urge to eat. They always feel hungry, even minutes after finishing a meal.

In 2008, Andy weighed more than 300 pounds. He had type 2 diabetes and was at risk of insulin-dependency. He was depressed and needed help.

Andy moved into a PWS group home at Advocates in Framingham. The program prioritizes round-the-clock care and support while encouraging personal growth, community engagement, and a sense of belonging. He followed a strict diet and exercise program and his girlfriend encouraged him to join the Massachusetts Special Olympics swim team.

“I’ve been swimming since I was in high school,” Andy said. “We were the State Champions at Waltham High. One of my goals when I moved into the house was to start swimming again.”

Although he prefers pools, Andy loves being in the ocean, especially in Marion and Falmouth while on family vacations. During the winter, he swims at the YMCA. He participates in the Special Olympics spring qualifying tournaments and the big games in June.

“I’ve been on the Special Olympics team for five years,” he said. “I swim the breaststroke and freestyle and am excited to see my friends again this summer. Swimming helps me keep my weight down, gives me something to do, and I’ve made new friends on the team.”

Andy has progressed significantly over the last 10 years. He works at Pabian Law in Framingham twice a week, a job he has held for two years. He goes into the community without Advocates staff, a significant accomplishment for individuals with PWS. He loves going to the movies, playing video games, and going to local indoor entertainment centers.

“I’m a lot more confident now and I’m happy that I can go out alone,” Andy said. “Everyone at Advocates trusts me and I don’t want to let them down.”

Watch Andy's speech from our 2nd Annual Fall Gala: Night at the Museum on November 29, 2018 to hear about how his life has changed since coming to Advocates.