Down syndrome is normal.
Friday night I was at the YMCA with my daughters. While my girls swam, I was chatting with a staff member who is also a high school student. She is kind and bright and she shared with me about her experiences at the county tech school. Some of her schoolwork is alongside people with disabilities who are also learning trade and job skills. She then shared how many of her friends at the tech school take the students with disabilities to the homecoming dances and proms “so they can be normal.”
This nice young woman telling me about the sweet tradition of taking their classmates with disabilities to dances has been taught that Down syndrome and other disabilities are not normal. As a mom, that hurts a little, but I understand. In the 80s, I was taught that lesson too when I saw the students with disabilities more or less sequestered to a classroom in the basement of our middle school.
But Down syndrome is normal. It’s as normal as that tree over there, as the waves of the sea and the birds migrating south this time of year. We didn’t scientifically create Down syndrome. It’s not like a Labradoodle. Down syndrome and other disabilities happen!
I read a friend’s Facebook post yesterday about her daughter with Down syndrome on a playground. Another child invited her to play. They are both at an age where they don’t know what Down syndrome is versus any other human condition. The child waited patiently and helped my friend’s daughter along when she needed it. They just played and had a delightful time. That’s normal.
What’s not normal is a society than ignores the needs of some of its members and systematically oppresses them to further their own selfish desires. Luckily for my family, it’s 2019 and things are getting better all the time. I like to say it as if I was selling used cars on a three day weekend. “Down syndrome! DOWN SYNDROME! There’s never been a better time to have Down syndrome, and if you stop by today, we’ll throw in an extra disability for free!”
Inclusion in our schools and workplaces is improving every year, and medical and mental health treatment has advanced tremendously in the past couple of decades, but we still have big-hearted and intelligent teens thinking of Down syndrome as something outside of “normal.” This is exactly why we need Down Syndrome Awareness Month.