This is a reprint from October of 2007
…October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Unless you live in a cave somewhere up in Nunavet, you know this. Because, every October, absolutely everything is pink. Pink housewares, pink storage bins, pink socks, pink underpants, pink windshield wipers, pink garbage cans – all giving a portion of their proceeds to various breast cancer groups. Which is cool. I’m all for eliminating breast cancer. My mother-in-law had it & beat it.
What you might not know is that October is another awareness month that doesn’t get a whole lot of press. But it’s one that’s near & dear to my heart. It’s Down Syndrome Awareness month. It’s a month devoted to promoting awareness about what Down Syndrome REALLY is. About how amazing people with that little extra chromosome are. About how we’ve spent centuries treating them as if they can’t do anything simply because they do it more slowly & deliberately. Because they look different than neurotypical people. But that they’re showing us “normal” people every day that they can do far, far more than we’ve given them credit for.
It’s difficult, as the mother of a child with DS, to not get frustrated with the way the world views these people. To constantly hear jokes with Down Syndrome as the butt. To hear the word “retard” bandied about as we insult ourselves & one another. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in this world as a person with DS. Because they aren’t deaf. Or brain dead. Or blind. They know that people stare at them. They hear the jokes. They get hit between the eyes with the insults. They hear the whispering. It must totally hurt. But, in spite of it all, most of the people with DS I know don’t hold hatred or bitterness in their hearts about it. I admire that. Because I? HATE IT.
Let’s educate ourselves about Down Syndrome & what it REALLY means, okay? It doesn’t mean institutionalizing people. It doesn’t mean they’re “retards”. It doesn’t mean they can’t learn or love or do much of what we all do every day. They go to work. They go to school. They play sports. They love music. They have friends. They go on dates. They’re even going to college & getting married. They are JUST LIKE YOU & ME. From what I can see – here’s the only difference. They do what we do – just a little more slowly & deliberately. It’s not that they CAN’T do something – it’s just that it takes them a little longer to learn how to do it. Having seen the strides we’ve taken in just the past couple of decades, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a future when people with DS regularly drive, live on their own, and do a lot more. Of course, I’m speaking in generalizations, but I see it. I believe it.
THIS is a person with Down Syndrome. You know what I’ve realizee? People fear what they don’t know. They treat people with DS as if they’re less-than-human because they don’t KNOW them. They’ve never met a person with DS and certainly don’t know someone like my Henry. So that’s my mission. You’re going to KNOW Henry. I’m going to spend this month inundating you with information, silly stories, anecdotes and the rest so that you can no longer say that you don’t know someone with Down Syndrome. And, hopefully, with every person who knows Henry, a little prejudice will ease up. A little love will spread. Like the Grinch, maybe a heart will grow 2 sizes that day.Tweet