(NEW YORK) -- When Gail Williamson was pregnant with her son Blair in 1979, there was no one on TV with Down syndrome to help make the diagnosis less scary.
Today, doctors tell parents that their babies will grow up and be like "Becky," a character on Glee who has Down syndrome -- and quite a bit of sass as she rocks a cheerleading uniform at the fictional William McKinley High School.
"It changes it for parents," said Williamson, the woman who connected Glee with Lauren Potter, the actress who plays Becky; Robin Trocki, the actress who played Sue Sylvester's big sister, Jean; and Jordyn Orr, the baby who made her Glee debut as Sue's daughter Thursday night. They all have Down syndrome.
And the ladies of Glee are not alone, said Willliamson, who now runs Down Syndrome in Arts and Media after spending 12 years at the California Governor's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. Actors with Down syndrome will also be on Shameless, American Horror Story, Blue Bloods, Legit and The New Normal this year, changing the public's perception of the syndrome one viewer at a time.
Down syndrome hasn't been this prevalent in entertainment since Chris Burke played Corky Thatcher on ABC's Life Goes On from 1989 through 1993, Williamson said, adding that she remembers how life changed for Blair after it debuted.
"Waiters would turn to him and say, 'What would you like to eat?'" she said, adding that they'd previously asked her what he wanted instead. "People didn't realize they could talk to that face … I saw a change. I saw the difference. And I saw it again after Glee."
Potter, 22, was a baby when Life Goes On was on television, so she said she never had a television role model who had Down syndrome. But now, people will run across parking lots and line up for her autograph.
"I just felt like I wanted to cry," Potter said. "They were saying that I was their inspiration. These fans are really my heroes."
Her mom, Robin Sinkhorn, said the best thing is when college and high school students aren't afraid to say hello, and tell Potter that she inspired them to learn more about Down syndrome. Potter is now part of an anti-bullying campaign and is on President Obama's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
"It's pretty amazing what this kid has done, and this gift that Glee and the producers of Glee have given her," Sinkhorn said. "She's reached out to a lot of people."
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