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Don't Be Afraid to Let Your Child Ask Questions About My Daughter With Down Syndrome

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The other day I picked up my son, Tyler, from preschool and my daughter, Emily, had her oxygen on. A little 4-year-old came up to me and said, “What’s that on your baby’s face?” I saw the panic in her mother’s eyes as if her child had just cursed out loud at me. I simply replied, “Oh, this is just a little oxygen. It helps her breathe when she’s sick.” The little girl said, “Oh cool!” and walked away.

It can be that easy! We teach Tyler that some people have blonde hair, some have brown. Some people have light skin and some have dark skin. Some people are small and some are large. Some people have Down syndrome and some people don’t. Some people eat by mouth and some eat with a tubie. He doesn’t ask questions anymore. He just says, “If everyone was the same, the world would be so boring!”

Please don’t “shush” your child if they ask a question about mine. Use it as an opportunity to let them know some people are different and that’s OK! I tell kids (and even some adults) that Emily is like them, she just needs a little extra help learning how to do things.

Have conversations with your children. Show them pictures of people in wheelchairs or babies with feeding tubes. Show them a photo of a female basketball player and a male chef. Teach them at a young age that it’s OK to be whoever you want to be. That way, when they meet an Emily, the only question your kids might ask is, “Would you like to play with me?”

Follow this journey at Emily’s Heart.

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Originally published: November 6, 2017
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