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Regardless of Accomplishments, Can We Celebrate All People With Down Syndrome?

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Can you do me a favor?

Could you just keep something in mind?

Everyone loves people with Down syndrome when the popular girl gives up her homecoming queen crown for them, or the football players let them run the token touchdown, or when they’re doing the cute dance or hugging people and perpetuating the myth of how they’re “always happy.”

But — can you celebrate them when they’re just normal? When it’s not about glorifying some noble soul who treated them like most people want to be treated?

Can you celebrate them when they’re just trying to be themselves?

And can you celebrate them when they’re a bit… messy?

When they get overwhelmed and shut down or say inappropriate things.

Can you celebrate that?

Because our children’s safety depends on it.

You see, until we recognize that Down syndrome isn’t all cute-hugging-photo opportunities, until we realize that sometimes Down syndrome looks like the kid who won’t quit scratching his butt in public, or the kid who melts down from overstimulation, or the kid who can’t keep her voice down, or the kid who doesn’t speak, or the adult who develops early onset Alzheimer’s at 30 years old…

Until we realize that they are most certainly not always happy — any more than anyone else is — until we can celebrate all of that, and until we can help our typical children understand and celebrate it:

Our kids will continue to be marginalized when there’s no viral video opportunity.

Our kids will continue to be made the butt of jokes.

Our kids will continue to be equated with stupidity.

Our kids will continue to be targeted and victimized by people posing as friends but who see them as less than human, daddy-long legs to be toyed with and ripped apart.

Until we can embrace the messy parts of Down syndrome — the whole picture — our children will remain among this world’s most vulnerable population.

Would you do that for me?

Because my children’s lives could depend on it.

A version of this story originally appeared on Ashley Moreno’s Facebook page.

Originally published: March 22, 2019
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