Pablo Pineda, First European University Graduate with Down Syndrome

Pablo Pineda suffers from Down syndrome, but this characteristic has not prevented him from entering university and overcoming the obstacles that are often associated with this genetic alteration. He is the first university graduate with Down syndrome in Europe.


Pablo Pineda Ferrer is from Malaga and claims to be the first European graduate with Down syndrome. This disease owes its name to the surname of the British physician John Langdon H. Down. This scientist was the first to describe in 1866 the clinical characteristics that a specific group of people had in common. However, he was not able to determine its cause.

It would take a few more years for the world to know, finally, the origin of Down syndrome. It was in July 1958 when the French geneticist Jérôme Lejeune discovered that this syndrome consists of a chromosomal alteration of pair 21. In this way, trisomy 21 became the first chromosomal alteration found in man.

The stigma of Down syndrome has persisted for a long time in society. At first, the children born with this alteration were hidden, separated. Everything that, at some point, escapes from the normative tends to be secluded.

Luckily, over time, society has been normalizing the lives of these people, although it is true that often find many limitations. To know all this in greater depth, we will approach a person who lives in their own flesh and who, far from surrendering, has overcome many obstacles, that is Pablo Pineda.

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome, as we have pointed out, is a genetic alteration that is produced by the presence of an extra chromosome. The cells of the human body possess 46 chromosomes distributed in 23 pairs. One of these pairs determines the sex of the individual; and the other 22 are listed from 1 according to their decreasing size.

People with Down syndrome have three chromosomes in pair 21 instead of two, which are the usual ones. Therefore, this syndrome is also known as trisomy 21. Today, it is the leading cause of intellectual disability and the most common human genetic disorder.

Down syndrome occurs spontaneously, without there being an apparent cause on which action can be taken to prevent it. It occurs in all ethnic groups, in all countries, with an incidence of approximately one per 700 conceptions.

Maternal age is the only factor that, until now, has been shown as a possible risk factor, especially when the mother exceeds 35 years. Exceptionally, in 1% of cases, it is produced by inheritance of the parents.

The story of Pablo Pineda

Pablo Pineda was born in 1974 and is the youngest of four brothers. He completed his primary studies successfully, despite encountering many difficulties along the way.

He went to a public school, something that he always remembers with affection; since he thinks that, when interacting with diverse people, a mutual learning takes place. This young man considers the centers of special education as a product of another era in which children with Down syndrome were “something that had to be hidden”.

Apart from other circumstances, it has been the support and help of his family that has been the most determining factor in defining and determining his future. That is why it has a great impact on the importance of the fact that parents avoid overprotection that we exercise over their children. Thus, in his opinion, we must allow them to learn from bad experiences and stimulate them continuously.

Pablo Pineda studied Teaching in the university and, at the moment, is studying the Degree in Psychopedagogy. On the whim of fate, he has also worked as a film actor, starring in the film Yo, tambien (Álvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro, 2009). Thanks to this role, he won the best actor award at the prestigious San Sebastian International Film Festival.

Pablo Pineda, clarifying Down Syndrome

In his numerous papers, Pineda speaks on a recurrent basis about the need to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the university, as it is a critical requirement for future employability. He states that: “only 6% of people with special needs access to the university; and this supposes a barrier of face to the hiring on the part of the companies, that need people with learning “.

And is that access to higher education should be a personal choice and not come determined by our action or for any other reason. During his talks, Pineda emphasizes social awareness and access to training for all people who wish to study, focusing on those with different abilities.

In 2013, he published his first book, The challenge of learning. In it, he reflects on education, teaching and learning; recounts his own experience of disability in the educational environment. In 2015, he published a second book, Children with special abilities: a manual for parents. On this occasion, he offers, from his experience, help to parents and children with different abilities. All this from the premise that they are not sick people who must be pitied and overprotected.

According to Pineda, there are not disabled people but people with “different abilities”. Therefore, he believes that society should evolve and be more plural, encouraging the population so that people suffering from this syndrome are not treated as children. Their capacities and independence must be encouraged from an early age.

His story is a chronicle of improvement in which each day he gets up with the desire to continue fighting and learning. Hopefully, your example can serve to break the stigma of Down syndrome and create a more just and egalitarian society in which everyone can have the same opportunities. In the end, we all have a lot to learn from Pablo Pineda.

“Optimism is the faith that guides achievement. Nothing can be achieved without hope and self-confidence.”

-Helen Keller-