Paradise, interrupted

hawaii beachBonnie Rochman, a columnist for TIME magazine, has a new post about her trip to paradise being interrupted. It informs how a diagnosis for Down syndrome is delivered and processed by expectant parents.

Rochman writes about her son entering a T-shirt shop selling shirts that made fun of individuals with intellectual disabilities. By coincidence, a family with a child with Down syndrome entered the store soon after Rochman saw the T-shirts. She writes:

I felt panicky. As a mother, I wanted to turn those T-shirts around so that the other mom, the one who gave birth to a boy with Down syndrome and is doing her best to raise him in a society that is not always kind, wouldn’t see them and be forced to worry on vacation about the way our culture treats children like hers.

Indeed, this same rush to protect a child is the natural reaction when receiving the diagnosis of Down syndrome. I expect for almost every parent, the thought crosses their mind of what sort of ridicule their child will face growing up. And, for many, when they have the chance to spare their child from that experience, they would choose to do so, and many do.

This certainly was a concern of mine when we received the diagnosis for our daughter. I remembered all the taunts and insults my friends and I would hurl at each other as teenagers and in college. Society has since become more accepting of those with intellectual disabilities and less tolerant of slurs like “retard” or “retarded,” though a t-shirt maker in Hawaii (and throughout our country) believes there are customers who will pay to perpetuate insults against those with intellectual disabilities. No doubt, the continued ridicule of the disabled is a concern for those receiving a diagnosis.

Fortunately, my wife and I have been pleasantly surprised at how our fears have not been realized. So far, our daughter has not been taunted or teased for her different learning abilities or physical characteristics associated with Down syndrome. Quite the contrary: she is included with her typical classmates, invited to play dates, and has good friends who, if anything, are overly protective of her.

I do not think ours is a rare experience for children being raised in today’s more inclusive society. Nevertheless, there remains accepted instances of ridicule, but, fortunately, as demonstrated by TIME’s decision to feature Rochman’s piece, the rest of society is catching on to why inclusion should be promoted, not ridicule.

Question: For those parenting a child with Down syndrome, did you share these concerns when you received the diagnosis and how has life actually worked out? 

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