What does breast cancer, domestic violence, disability employment, bullying prevention, information literacy, cyber security, and medicine abuse all have in common?
They, among other causes, are promoting national awareness in the month of October.
For me, the most significant awareness initiative that needs more ink and improved understanding is Down syndrome.
Last October, I joined the “31 for 21 challenge” to blog all 31 days of the month in support of National Down Syndrome Awareness Month and in honor of the most common cause of the syndrome, which is an extra copy of the twenty-first chromosome.
I intended to do the same this month, but life has a way of getting in the way.
This is the month that parents debunk myths, educate doctors and message makers, and share the inspiration that their kids who happen to have Down syndrome give them. We hope to spread the word about opening others’ hearts and minds to something new.
Heavy topics get attention: The startlingly high percentage of mothers who abort their child who has Down syndrome and the ongoing ethical debate about prenatal testing are important issues. (I have much to say about this but am still formulating my words.)
Statistics get replayed: Most people with Down syndrome say they are happy with their lives, and studies show that their families are happy and are in fact improved because of the family member who has DS.
Darling children are highlighted:
This month is a chance for YOU to spread a positive notion about a person you may know, or know of, who has Down syndrome.
I’d like to introduce you to an eloquent new hero of mine. He wrote about why the term “retarded” bothers him in a courageous address to Ann Coulter who flippantly uses that term without regret. John Franklin Stephens is an athlete in the Special Olympics who says that society needs “to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor. No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.”
I would be thrilled if either of my children ended up being like Mr. Stephens. What a model of humanity for us all to try to live up to.
It is my personal experience that having a child with special needs is not easy and that the common notions about his condition and what it’s like to raise him are almost always wrong. The uninformed attitudes people have and the ugly things some say about people with disabilities thicken my skin. I know that I am just beginning an adventure in advocacy that will last my entire life.
But the plain secret is this: The very special, very tender blessings that come from life with a person who has Down syndrome outweigh the challenges. By far.