My Adult Sister Has Down Syndrome
People naturally fear the unknown. When we don’t understand something, we steer away from it or sometimes make fun of it. This month is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Imagine being in the position where you are an adult, yet a waiter asks another adult for your order. Imagine being an adult and having well meaning adults telling you what you needed to do health wise. Imagine people whom you dearly love being ashamed of you. My sister, Krista, was born with Down syndrome and has been in all of those positions. As a sibling, I didn’t fully understand what that meant when I was 16 years old. If I had known what a blessing she would be then, the fear would have subsided quickly.
My parents didn’t know how to educate Krista. They didn’t know that funding was available to assist her. But they knew she was their daughter, so they raised her just as they raised my sister Karen and me. They offered us all every opportunity to capitalize on our interests. They held us all to high standards and they expected us to be highly educated. We all had braces. We all took music lessons. Krista can play the piano, the violin, she reads well, takes copious notes about subjects she is interested in and she has never met a stranger.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition in the USA. One in every 691 babies born in the United States is born with Down syndrome. Unfortunately, there are still many myths concerning people with Down syndrome. The vast majority of people with Down syndrome lead very productive lives, taking advantage of all the educational and social opportunities afforded to them. In other words, they are not that different from you and me.
This year, I was very fortunate to be named the principal of the C.M. Scott Center in Oxford. We have several young men and women at the Scott Center who have Down syndrome. They are an incredibly gifted group of children. They are tech-savvy, they have incredible dance moves, they continually achieve and they bring delight to those around them.
Now imagine what it would be like to be featured in “People” magazine. Imagine how it would feel to do the ribbon cutting for over 30 houses built for people less fortunate than yourself. Imagine how special you would feel if you were a calendar girl. Are these all things I have accomplished? No, but my sister, Krista, has.
All of us at one time or another will be touched by someone who has Down syndrome. Embrace them. Get to know them as people, not as a syndrome. You will be the better person for bringing these people into your life. How delightful an experience that could be!
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