The World Needs Down Syndrome

August 30, 2009

Many may strongly disagree with the title of this post, but before anyone jumps to conclusions please allow me to explain a bit further. In the process of researching my upcoming book on Down syndrome, I have had the opportunity to speak to a number of families living with an individual diagnosed with DS. Perhaps surprisingly, family members of people with Down syndrome consistently describe their supposedly "disabled" child or sibling as being kind, friendly, honest, funny, and intensely concerned with the welfare of others. In my own contact with these individuals I have observed much of the same.

 

So why do most people believe that Down syndrome is something to be avoided at all costs? I believe the answer is twofold--first, most people don't really know anyone with Down syndrome. Second, throughout our lives we have been culturally conditioned to conform, fit in, be normal, be perfect. Therefore, our natural reaction to someone who appears different from the social norm is a feeling of discomfort, and it is that discomfort within ourselves that then manifests itself as pity for "that poor child." As a result, we come to believe that the solution is to prevent individuals who are different from entering the world in the first place, all the while assuring ourselves that "it's for the best."

 

The truth is, people with Down syndrome are not miserable. Certainly their lives are not perfect, nobody's is. For the most part, though, these individuals live in the moment. They delight in discovering and enjoying the best in themselves and others every day. Now tell me, why would we want to have fewer people like this in the world?

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