Happy Down Syndrome Awareness Month! Have you bought your decorations yet? Just kidding….isn’t it funny that there’s now and “month” and a “day” to celebrate or bring awareness to most everything these days? But this momma can’t think of anything more noteworthy than to bring awareness (and maybe even dispel some fears) about Down syndrome!
So, a little more than four-and-a-half years ago, I would have found myself in the shoes of someone who knew nothing about Down syndrome, other than the fact that it is some sort of “condition” that a “friend-of-a-friend” had a child with, etc. Under-informed, hesitant, scared and generally uneducated were some phrases that you might use to describe my perspective on DS, though I’d probably tell you very quickly that I knew a lot about it because I have (at one time or another) been in close proximity (or even the same room) as someone with Down syndrome.
So, here’s my list of preconceived notions about someone with Down syndrome that qualified me to talk about it and feel sorry for people with it……and the truths that I now know about the beauty of the extra chromosome. WOW…wish I had read this years ago! Here goes:
1. MYTH: People with Down syndrome are retarded. TRUTH: Ok, now that I’ve cringed and thrown up in my mouth a little from having even written that, let me fill you in on the truth. NOT all people with Down syndrome qualify as MR (mentally retarded). As a matter of fact, Seth’s IQ scores measure well within the “average intelligence” range. Not that it’s any of your business, but we’re happy to use his brilliance and capabilities as a way to prove this myth as flat out wrong! All you have to do is spend a few minutes with Seth and you’d see that he knows what’s up and can hang with the best of them!
2. MYTH: People with Down syndrome are always happy. TRUTH: Come to my house at 6:30 pm with a four-year-old who is hungry and hasn’t had a nap and you tell me if this myth is true or not. Seth’s range of emotions are just as human as yours. Don’t be surprised when I tell you that he can be grumpy, surprised, scared, happy, angry, joyful, hesitant, sad and bubbly just like all other “regular” people. You know why? Cause he’s more like you than not.
3. MYTH: People with Down syndrome have to live with their parents for the rest of their lives. TRUTH: Let this be the LAST time that you’re surprised to find out that lots of people with Down syndrome have graduated from college, earned a drivers license, gotten married, lived independently and maintained jobs. Yes, it’s true….they are fully functioning, contributing members of society. Oh wait a minute….that’s just like you too, isn’t it?
4. MYTH: People with Down syndrome are a burden to their parents and families. TRUTH: What child hasn’t at some point in their lives caused their parents grief, worry, etc.? Did you go crazy in high school or college and have your parents worried you’d never really straighten up or get your act together? Man, what a burden you must have been to your parents and family! I’ve actually heard from some parents that their grown children with DS turned out to be the easiest ones of the bunch….imagine that! And no, Seth is not burden. He’s a joy……just like the rest of our children!
5. MYTH: If you’re pregnancy is diagnosed with Down syndrome, you should consider abortion. TRUTH: If you’re pregnancy is diagnosed with Down syndrome, call me and let me adopt your baby. Know that Creator God, who plans and purposes all things and all people, has it under control. If for any reason you feel you can’t keep the baby, there are waiting lists of people who want to adopt babies specifically with Down syndrome…..so you can help make someone’s family complete.
6. MYTH: Down syndrome people are just different. TRUTH: The way you say it is, “people with Down syndrome.” They are people first, then they have Down syndrome. You wouldn’t call me “Emily, the scoliosis woman.” You would say, “Emily, the woman that has scoliosis.” See the difference and how silly it is to say it the other way? And the truth is yes and no….they have some minor differences (a few extra chromosomes can change some physical characteristics up a little)….but they are mostly like you.
7. MYTH: God only chooses the most special parents to give these children to. TRUTH: God promises us is 1 Corinthians 10 that He will indeed give us more than we can handle so that we must rely on His strength and His power to endure hard times. I assure you, there is nothing special or wonderful about me or Joel to qualify us to gracefully accept the charge of rearing a child with Down syndrome, or any special needs for that matter. By no means would I have said four years ago, or even today, that I am well-equipped to handle this job and do it well. There are so many days as a parent that I run to the Lord and confess that I can’t do it! I’m no good at this job! I’m failing in so many ways! Have you ever felt that way as a parent of your typically-developing children? I would assume most anyone can identify. With Seth, it is no different. But God, in all His wisdom and splendor, chose to give us Seth and Kyle and Ella, and chose to allow us to struggle as parents, so that we would run to Him for our help and our strength.
I guess those are the biggies that always seem to come up. There are hundreds more, but just visit my buddy Rick’s blog….NoahsDad.com…..to see a community of moms and dads who write in every day to discuss this very issue and more. For fun, I’ve compiled a small list of characteristics and accomplishments that are specific to Seth that you might find interesting:
1. Seth is potty trained! (just like his peers)
2. Seth can feed himself everything (for several years now) and drinks from an open cup! (just like his peers)
3. Seth can play tee-ball and golf in the back yard….and he can manage the full swing set, slide, ladders and ramps! (just like his peers)
4. Seth is a dancing machine!
5. Seth has favorite books, movies and songs! (just like his peers)
6. Seth loves to worship at church and even practices the microphone like momma!
7. Seth has favorite food and among them is broccoli!
8. Seth has to be disciplined in the same way as his sister and brother.
9. Seth can talk and uses words and phrases to work independently in his world!
10. Seth can learn…and he’s doing great in Pre-K!
Thanks for taking time to read through our list. Now take this information, and help me, and all the other moms and dads with me, to educate friends, family members and our world!