It seems that over the past 6 or 7 years there has been an increase of children with Trisomy 21, Down Syndrome, winning pageants, scoring touchdowns and being elected prom king/queen.
My oldest son Davis has Down Syndrome. He also has leukemia. We have spent a lot of time in hospitals, ERs, and shed a lot of tears. We mourned the child that we thought we were going to have. We accepted his DS and learned to live with it, even love it. And then we mourned nearly losing that same child to leukemia. His short 5 years have been rough. He’s had more surgeries than most people have in a lifetime. He has had blood draws, daily chemo, steroids and horrendous side effects. All before kindergarten.
Meg recently asked me what I thought about a high school team that set up a touch down for a member of their team that has DS. She asked me if I thought it seemed forced. I don’t know this kid’s particular health history, but I imagine it isn’t too different than Davis’ history. He’s been through a lot. No one with DS has it easy.
The thing about many DS kids is that they don’t even perceive themselves as different. They don’t even *know* they have DS. Davis certainly doesn’t. In order to get Davis on the scale at the hospital the entire staff comes out and cheers for him. Just to get his weight! To him, he did something great! He’s thrilled! It’s a scale. It means nothing. The touchdown means nothing. But to him? It’s the greatest thing that happened to him that day and maybe that week. I think that kid will talk about that touchdown for the rest of his life.
When I was in high school 20 years ago it was certainly a different world. The kids with DS were in “special ed”. They weren’t included in regular activities. They were different and if you knew someone’s first name that was making an effort. Kids are fearful. And that fear is typically shown by being mean and making fun of things they don’t understand. Sadly, many DS kids were mocked and laughed at. The only way any of them stood a chance at scoring a touchdown was, well…, there was no chance. Not just the kids were different then, but I think that the teacher’s attitudes and perception about the kids was different as well. Perception is reality.
Fast forward. Kids with Down Syndrome are IN the classroom with everyone else from kindergarten on. They aren’t in a corner room. They are in gym class, at lunch, team managers, friends. They are on Glee, winning prom king, homecoming queen, scoring touchdowns and draining 3-pointers. They are included in life.
So, no, I don’t think it is forced. This changes perceptions. It changes the lives of the kids with DS and the kids who are organizing the winning touchdown. And that’s who’s doing it. Open minded, warm hearted kids. And for just a moment I’d like to recognize how far we’ve come. Not how far we have to go. This is huge for my son and for his younger brother who has a disabled sibling. It allows them to live a high school life that is what all kids want at that age, as normal as it CAN be. It is high school after all. It’s not easy on anyone. I’m looking forward to Davis scoring a touchdown…(but I’d never actually let him play! ever!).
Davis was diagnosed with Leukemia in March of 2013. If you would like to help contribute to help Davis and his family pay for his 4+ years of treatments and related expenses, please click this link! https://www.youcaring.com/davispmckay