There is a new series on A&E called Born This Way. It is about a group of young adults with Down Syndrome. I feel this is a must watch for all adults who come in contact with children/students with disabilities, of which Down Syndrome is just one. Despite all the talk about the advances in awareness and methods of intervention to help people with disabilities, I have personally seen too many instances of under expectations for children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. In our society at the present time 70% of individuals with disabilities of working age can’t find employment.
I feel that expectant parents should watch this to counter the talk about individuals with Down Syndrome being unable to be a part of society, unable to be independent in any way. Yes, they may need more support than a typically developing child, but now days even typically developing children are needing more support for extended periods of time due to the economy and the cost of a liberal arts education. Even my children are needing some support due to job hours limitations due to the employers need to provide health insurance for employees working more than 28 hours per week.
I have patients in my practice who have Down Syndrome in their 20’s. Their parents were told to either abort, or if it was not known until delivery, to put their newborn baby into an institution because they would always need total support, would not be able to learn, etc. Born This Way, goes a long way to show that these predictions are so limiting. My patients were discriminated early on regarding educational expectations. I, along with others, helped their parents learn to advocate for more in school or to seek it out on their own. Great strides were made by this advocacy. A young man with Down Syndrome, who also inherited his mother’s dyslexia, received appropriate tutoring for dyslexia and went from not reading at all to reading at 2nd grade level in one year. A young man with mild intellectual development disorder, who also had dyslexia, who went from not reading to reading at 4th grade level in less than 2 years.
Let’s make 2016 the year that we learn from individuals with disabilities, like the cast of Born This Way. Let’s vow to see everyone as having potential to be explored, not limitations to be enforced.