John and Mark X. Cronin, the father-son team that founded John's Crazy Socks, spoke with future doctors and medical professionals at the College of the Holy Cross on treating patients and families with a differing ability. John has Down syndrome, so he and his family have seen the best and the worst of our medical system when it comes to treating people with intellectual developmental disabilities.
Megan DiDominica, who organized the event, said “This was so inspiring and so helpful. We are grateful that John and Mark spoke with us.”
Mark X. Cronin explained the motivation for speaking with medical professionals, “There are two problems that often arise: people with IDD are medically underserved and providers often do not know how to communicate with patients or their families. By sharing our experiences, we hope to overcome these challenges.”
Holy Cross has created a network group for pre-med students and those students taking a gap year before heading on to medical school or other health care professional schools. Mark took a special interest in speaking to this group since he earned his undergraduate degree from Holy Cross.
Delivering Proper Medical Treatment
People with IDD can be non-verbal and even those who can speak well often have trouble communicating their symptoms or explaining what is happening with their bodies. This can make diagnosing a situation and measuring the impact of treatment difficult.
Most medical students do not receive training on treating people with IDD which compounds the communication barrier. And in systems where medical professionals have limited time to spend on any one patient, it can strain the patience and the system to take the time needed to understand the conditions of a patient with IDD.
In their talk, John and Mark share their experiences and how the lack of communication can affect medical care. For example, John has an eye condition called keratoconus, an asymmetrical thinning of the cornea that is more prevalent among people with Down syndrome. It took a third ophthalmologist to properly diagnose and treat John’s condition and that was only after they could find a doctor with experience not only with the relatively rare eye condition, but with treating people with Down syndrome.
John and Mark shared some solutions that range from policy changes – formally recognizing people with IDD as a medically underserved population – to practical ideas such as involving family members in the treatment of a patient and learning how to listen to patients with IDD.
Communicating with Patients and Families
Providers often struggle to communicate with patients and their families about conditions. Mark shared the experience from John’s birth.
“We did not know in advance that John would be born with Down syndrome,” said Mark. “Here’s how we found out. The covering OB/GYN came into a room without making eye contact and told my wife and me, ‘I am so sorry. I have bad news. It appears that your son may have a slight case of Down syndrome.’ Unfortunately, that is what too many parents hear first, not the congratulations they deserve and not the wonderful news about their child.” (Mark has published an article about this experience and issue in the Huff Post.)
“By sharing John’s story and that of our colleagues with differing abilities, we want people to see how full a life a person with Down syndrome or other IDD can lead. Yes, there may be medical and other challenges, but the joy overwhelms those problems and providers should convey that when speaking with parents.”
Speaking at Medical Schools and with Health Care Professionals
John and Mark are frequent speakers at colleges and universities, appearing in person in the U.S. and Canada and speaking virtually around the world. In addition to speaking with students training for a career in healthcare, they often speak with business and entrepreneurial students as well as students in the fields of education and special education. At several universities, they speak on an annual basis as the instructors want them to return to address a new group of students.
“I love talking with doctors and future doctors,” said John.
“We have much to share,” said Mark, “And we offer inspiration, encouragement and practical tips for health care providers in treating people with disabilities.”
Among the colleges and universities where they have spoken are Rutgers, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Ripon College, Holy Cross, Middle Tennessee State, Hofstra, the University of Loyola-Chicago, and Adelphi University. Outside the U.S., they have spoken at Carleton College and Simon Fraser University in Canada, Trinity College in Ireland, the University of Paris, and schools in Belgium, Portugal, and Spain.
Keynote and Event Speakers
John and Mark X. Cronin are frequent speakers at conferences and corporate events. They share their entrepreneurial story of how a young man with Down syndrome together with his father created what is today the world’s largest sock store with a mission to spread happiness. Their speaking engagements bring laughter, tears and inspire people to see what is possible for each of us to achieve. They have spoken in person at events across Canada, the United States and Mexico and at virtual events around the world. They have spoken at events for Microsoft, EY, Bank of America, the Special Olympics, and the National Down Syndrome Society, among others.
Their advocacy work has seen the Cronins testify twice before Congress and speak at the United Nations on two occasions. Their work has been featured on many national news shows. They are winners of many awards including the EY Entrepreneurs of the Year. They serve on the CEO Commission for Disability Employment and the Neurodiversity at Work Business Roundtable.
John and Mark recorded their second TEDx Talk entitled, “Hiring People with People with Differing Abilities is Not Altruism, It Is Good Business.” That talk is available on YouTube and the TED platform. Their first TEDx Talk entitled Differently Abled People Want to Help Us is also available on YouTube and the TED platform.
About John’s Crazy Socks
John’s Crazy Socks was inspired by John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome, and his love of colorful and fun socks—what he calls his “crazy socks.” He and his father, Mark X. Cronin, started the company as a social enterprise with a mission of Spreading Happiness™. With more than 4,000 socks, John’s Crazy Socks is now the world’s largest sock store. More than half their employees have a differing ability, and their Giving Back program has raised over $650,000 for charity partners like the Special Olympics, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the Autism Society of America. Most of all, they are Spreading Happiness™.
For more information about John’s Crazy Socks, visit our webpage, Facebook page, Instagram account, TikTok or YouTube channel. You can also contact us at 631-760-5625 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.