Friday, March 22, 2013

Can You See My Child?

I watched this video this morning and just enjoyed watching two young people with Down syndrome do ordinary things. Then it got to almost the end of the video and the young lady said, "Even though I have Down syndrome, I still think of myself as a real person." and my heart broke and tears came.

I'm glad that she sees herself that way. It made my morning to see that she (and the young man in the video) seems to have a lot of confidence in herself and her capabilities, but she shouldn't have to even clarify that she thinks of herself as a "real person". She IS a real person, first and foremost, Down syndrome comes after that fact and is just a part of what makes her the person that she is.

Yesterday on Facebook I saw a post from an acquaintance on an encounter she'd had with a young man with Down syndrome and how it had changed her perspective. She went from pitying those with "that disability" to admiring them because this young man "prophesied" over her son and was "filled with wonder and excitement". Her post and the comments of others pointed out to me how people with Down syndrome are either seen as "less" human or "special" human. I did comment to the effect of how I hope my daughter will be seen as simply HUMAN and I was going to let it go at that. But, now that I've watched this video and gotten stirred up I just can't let it go.

*I do want to say that I don't hold anything against the young woman who posted the Facebook post or anyone who commented. I feel like sometimes people think I am just a mad Mama out to get anyone who doesn't agree with me. That's not it. I'm just a Mom on a journey. I'm learning as I go and I'm hoping that the rest of the World will want to learn along with me.*

Now, with all that said,  here's where I've been going with all my "stirring up". I'm not eloquent and my tendency towards ADD doesn't allow me to expound on all my little thoughts and ponderings like I'd want to. So, I'm gonna lay it out in bullet points and hope that others will come along and help me answer the questions or even raise more. That's how we learn best, right?
  • What if the young man my facebook friend met hadn't been a Christian? If he'd just said "what a cute baby" and then talked about other things? Would she still have had her perspective on people with Down syndrome changed?
    • My guess is no, and that makes me ask- "Why does he have to have that in common with you in order for you to see him differently that you would have?" (maybe just human nature...?)
  • Why can't people see that having the attitude that those with disabilities are "less" or "super" human is what leads to them being marginalized in education, health care, employment, etc?
    • I shouldn't have to fight against these attitudes to get Liza included in Kindergarten! Dammit!
    • I shouldn't have to tell folks who work at a hospital for kids with special needs that using the word "re*ard" is not something they should do! Dammit!
  •  What is society doing to people with Down syndrome (and other disabilities) when the messages that they get are that they are either a "special" person or a "lesser" person?
  • What is it going to take for us as advocates to change the way society sees our kids? To get them to see them as people?
I'm not by any means an expert on inclusivity (is that a word? maybe it should be.) or accepting everyone who is different from you. I catch myself at times being judgmental due to some stereotype, and I hate myself every time I realize I've done it. Or being "too nice" to correct folks when they say something about Liza like, "Oh, it's ok that she hit me. I think it's just her way of saying she loves me."

I just want to grow and learn. Is it too much to ask that the rest of the World grow and learn with me? If you're stirred up too or you just want to learn how to really change your perspective on people with Down syndrome or other disabilities please check out Down Syndrome Uprising.

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