What This Photo Says About My Son With Down Syndrome


This photo — this beautiful photo taken by the talented Ron Putnam at Burney Falls, California, is a phenomenal shot of a young boy experiencing nature. He’s using all his senses to take in the beauty of the courageous falls that lie before him. I’ve studied this photo over and over enthralled with all the beauty it speaks. I look at this shot and my first thought is how incredible it is. My second thought is how different the shot may present to others had my son been turned around facing the camera.

This thought entered my mind for several reasons. First, my son is a ham. Capturing a candid photo is hard these days. He poses every time he sees a camera angled his way. The second reason is because he also has Down syndrome. That is usually the first thing people see when they first meet my son (or stare rudely from a distance). Some even have the audacity to believe that it defines who he is, which I can assure you it does not.

You see, since having James, I’ve learned that you don’t know what you don’t know until you know. I surely didn’t know much about Down syndrome until having a child of my own who has it.

I thought all people with Down syndrome were happy, I now know that is definitely not true! I could easily show you on any given day when that statement is inaccurate.

I thought people with Down syndrome all had the same intelligence levels and I judged their abilities. I now know that just like all people, those with Down syndrome have varying abilities.

I thought using the term “Down’s kid” was endearing. I didn’t realize I would feel that using that kind of language dismisses all that James is. I now prefer people first language because it puts the person in front of their disability. James has Down syndrome, it’s not who he is.

James is much more than just Down syndrome. He loves to read, play ball, go to the park and swing. He loves playing “boo” with his friends and waking mom and dad up in the wee hours of the morning to sing songs. He loves making people smile and snuggles. He is smart. He knows the alphabet, shapes, colors, numbers, can match words to corresponding pictures and was potty trained at the age of 2.5! James wants to be included, accepted and loved. He’s just a kid — he’s my kid. Just like all the other moms out there with kids they love, this is my kid and I see him for who he is and love the heck out of him.

I’ve looked at this photo over and over again. This beautiful photo taken by the talented Ron Putnam at Burney Falls. It’s a phenomenal shot of a young boy experiencing nature. Just a boy, just my boy, in this photo.

Image Credits: Ron Putnam

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