Rarely do children born with Down syndrome receive the warm welcome they deserve. Their births are often accompanied by grief, denial and disappointment. As new parents learn more about life with Down syndrome and shed their own misconceptions, they must still face the outdated stereotypes and ignorance of family, friends and society at large.
Society’s attitudes about Down syndrome support a subtle barrier that becomes clearer as we grow with our five year old son Nick. While there may be many ways to describe it, much of it distills to something Nick asks constantly as his older brother and sister leave him behind for soccer practice, to go play with friends, or to do those things that older kids do. “How ‘bout me?”
We fear that Nick’s presently innocuous question will cut deeper as the years pass, for people with developmental disabilities too often are left wondering the same thing as they try to participate in our community in ways we all take for granted. How ‘bout me?
More and more doors are opening for the developmentally disabled. But simply opening the doors is not enough: weaving them into our churches, our schools, our community requires more than a willing attitude. It requires effort. It requires work. It requires active support.
We know that you here tonight are willing to embrace people with Down syndrome, but how do we answer those who ask why the community should take the time, effort and, yes, expense to really include them. The answer is simple. We should work to include them because they are worthy human beings that need a little support, because they are amazing people who, if given a little extra help, will blossom into joyful, truly capable members of society, because it will enrich the world.
Thank you for joining us tonight to support those affected by Down syndrome. With your assistance, we can work to change attitudes about including the developmentally disabled in our community. Perhaps one day we will see a time when our children no longer have to ask “How ‘bout me?”
William and Dana Halle