Copyright © 2012 Stephen Hawley, all rights reserved.
Day 31 of 31 for 21.
I’m going to ask you all a favor. It’s going to be a hard task for you, but I hope you can do it. Be better than me. I’ll admit to having a fair amount of ignorance and prejudice about Down syndrome. My closest contact was a boy in my grade in junior high who had two younger sisters with Down syndrome. We didn’t see them that much and I don’t recall them going to our school. I knew it was a genetic disorder. I could recognize people who had Down syndrome, as I think most of us can.
I’ve learned a lot more personally. If you’ve read my blogs, you’ve had the opportunity to learn from me and I invite you to be better than I was. To be more accepting, more understanding, more welcoming and so on. Be aware that when you see us out with our kids, we’re probably working towards some goal other than the obvious ones. For example, if you see me shopping with Alice, we’re actively working on organizing, planning, reading, and social skills. If I redirect her away from you and you here me say, “Alice, rule?” and Alice replies, “no talking to strangers.” It’s not because I don’t trust you, it’s that Alice has no anxiety about talking to strangers and no apparent judgement as to who she can and should talk to. Not yet.
The thing is, there is really only one demographic that is still consistently marginalized or picked on, and that’s people with cognitive delays. We I in the same circumstances 15 years ago or so, I would’ve used the word ‘retarded’, but our society has successfully destroyed the correct usage of that word. This is same population that is responsible for the marginalization because it’s harder for the cognitively delayed to fight back and speak up as self-advocates.
Be better than me. See a joke in a movie making fun of someone with Down syndrome and ask if the joke would’ve been racist if the person was African American or Chinese or any other group. If the answer is yes, then stand up and express dissatisfaction.
If you run a business, consider hiring a person with Down syndrome or a person with cognitive delays. There are a number of programs that include job shadowing to help people succeed in their jobs, but many can work quite well and independently.
Be better than me. Don’t assume lack of ability. Take people with Down syndrome as unique individuals with feelings. Don’t treat them as if they are invisible and talk around them. Talk to them too. It may take longer for everyone to be understood, but you can take that longer road.
You can do it. I trust you.