When you look at this face
What do you see? What words would you use to describe this picture?
How about this one?
Or this one?
Do you see children or do you see Down Syndrome? If you've been reading here for a while, or know us in real life, I mean REALLY know us, I bet you see children...beautiful, soulful, sometimes naughty, joyful, perfect-as-they-are children who have so much to offer. I can tell you, sadly though, that too many people that work with our girls (professionals such as doctors, specialists, and therapists) see Down Syndrome. Is that a problem? Well, yes it is when they only see Down Syndrome. They see it first and foremost and allow that one factor to identify my children. First of all, that's really unfair. Yes, we're all guilty of making snap judgments based on someone's appearance, but for some reason so many professionals have a hard time seeing past Down Syndrome at all...they have difficulty seeing my children for their beautiful and unique hearts and souls. They have difficulty believing that my children understand everything happening around them. They hugely underestimate my children's abilities and feelings when they only see Down Syndrome. They work off a preconceived notion that people with Down Syndrome are somehow "less"....and that is a very slippery slope (a slope of which I may be at the bottom passing out free punches to the nose...kidding! kidding!, sort of).
I've been dealing with some professionals lately whom I have no doubt think I'm off my rocker. They think I'm making things up about my children's abilities because they could just never in a million years believe that someone with Down Syndrome could be capable of thinking/feeling/doing the things I say they may be thinking/feeling/doing. Some have even questioned aloud or asked me to prove that my child can do what I just told them they can do (or even in one instance questioned results of cognitive testing that was done saying surely that must be a mistake because people with Down Syndrome must ALWAYS have huge deficits in cognition, right?). If they'd just take time to get to know my children and look past Down syndrome, which is really only a very tiny part of who they are, maybe they'd see them as CHILDREN. Maybe they'd see the value and worth and beauty that I see. It becomes such a big problem when people can't see past Down Syndrome. It makes me really very sad, both for my girls and for those people. It makes me sad for my girls because with one look, their facial features associated with Down Syndrome "give them away" so to speak. They don't stand a fighting chance when up against people with preconceived and incorrect notions of the abilities of people with Down Syndrome. And you know what? My 2 and 5 year olds shouldn't have to try and prove their worth to anyone. They are worthy just for being themselves. It makes me sad for those people that they'll never see the gift that my children (and other people with Down syndrome) are to this world.
Here's the moral of the story. At the end of the day my job is to help my children find and develop their God-given gifts. My hope is in teaching them to shine their lights bright, others will see them for who they are, but sadly that hope has been trampled so many times already in their short lives. I just want so badly for others to see my children as PEOPLE first. Beautiful little people who have likes and dislikes, strengths and needs, JUST LIKE THE REST OF THE POPULATION! I have a dream that one day the world will understand that our daughters' worth does not lie in their strengths or needs, but in the fact that they were created beautifully and perfectly, just as the Lord intended. I have a dream that people will be able to look at my daughters and see PEOPLE and not a diagnosis.
What do you see?