Through tears, I wailed, “Can’t you just take it out?”
My doctor asked if I knew what Down syndrome was. I said, “Is that what little retarded kids, who all look alike, have?”
My knowledge of Down syndrome was very limited and I was terrified.
March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day, designed to raise awareness on behalf of people with Down syndrome. The date is meaningful because most children with Down are born with the genetic disorder, “Trisomy 21,” meaning the 21st chromosome has three parts instead of two. It is a form of mental retardation but every new generation of Down syndrome pushes the boundaries to how far these children will progress.
When Kelli’s I.Q. was tested, she was just a few points under the norm. Three times, she has traveled to Times Square to represent Indiana for the National Down Syndrome Society. And when she took her ISTEPs to graduate, she came within about 10 points of passing the English part of the test. She has also been in the Bremen Junior Miss pageant, went twice to the prom with a date, graduated high school, and helped her sister win a $40,000 college scholarship with a theme about Down syndrome. Kelli is now working part-time and makes minimum wage.
In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, I have a few words of advice to raise awareness.
- If you know of someone who has been told their unborn baby, or their newborn baby, has Down syndrome, tell them, “Congratulations! And although you might be having a lot of emotions right now, you have just won the lottery in parenting. Your life will become even greater because of your child.”
- Please join the pledge to ban the “R” word from your vocabulary and from your children’s (or students’) language. Calling someone “retarded” or “a retard” is offensive to people whose medical diagnosis is mental retardation. You wouldn’t use the “N” word, would you? Don’t use the “R” word, either.
- If you hear about a “cure for Down syndrome,” make no mistake: The only cure for Down syndrome, at this time, is abortion. Instead of counseling pregnant women about their “options,” counsel them about the joys of raising a child with Down syndrome. And if they don’t feel prepared for this, tell them there are waiting lists of people wanting to adopt babies with Down syndrome.
Linda Mullen Clevenger