What I Wish People Knew About Disability and Kids Like Mine
Life promises surprises. I for one, am grateful for that fact. Some surprises can be wonderful and make you squeal with delight. Others can present difficulty and make you pause and bolster yourself up so that you can take the next step forward. Each type of surprise can make you grow. Each type of surprise can remind you that you are alive.
I didn’t know I would have a baby with Down syndrome. When my son was born premature with complications that threatened his life, the diagnosis of Down syndrome paled in the mix of the terror of potentially losing him. We were so busy praying that we might be blessed to keep him it never occurred to us that had we known of the diagnosis of Down syndrome before his birth, we’d have been faced with the option of having an abortion.
For the record, my son has brought far more delightful surprises to our lives.
What I wish you knew about Down syndrome and disability is this:
Disability is naturally occurring in this world. All of nature is vulnerable to disability.
Your present state of ability might be temporary and could change. It might change because of a fall from a ladder, a ski accident, a step off a curb, unique genetic composition, or eventually, from age. It’s part of our human condition. Which is why I find it so curious that the fear or uncertainty of people with disabilities can be so strong that we struggle so to accept it.
I want you to know, Down syndrome isn’t to be feared. Disability isn’t to be feared. It is to be identified, understood and supported.
It’s just that simple.
So the next time you see someone who moves about the world differently than you — or communicates differently than you, or someone who perceives the world differently than you, or reacts to the world differently than you, or processes the world differently than you — look at their eyes, make eye contact if you can, and smile.
That’s how you acknowledge another human being and begin to put an end to this fear of disability.
It’s also pretty effective at improving understanding for humanity as a whole.
Getty image by Vita-lina