October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month!
When I first learned about this month (after Kate was born), I didn’t think too much of it. After all, most people are “aware” that there are people born with Down syndrome. Most know the physical characteristics commonly associated with people with Down syndrome. It’s the most common chromosome abnormality in humans, after all.
But very quickly, I realized that’s where the awareness ended. Even for some doctors. For “medical websites.” For some people who work in the special needs community.
Knowing something exists is far different from having a true understanding. It’s like seeing pictures of the Eiffel Tower vs. taking pictures from the top. Like watching a romantic comedy vs. falling in love. Like walking into a Babies R’ Us vs. holding a sleeping newborn.
There are all sorts of smart sources out there with updated, educational information about Down syndrome—and I’m so thankful that Kate is living in a time of limitless possibilities for those of all abilities. But we still have so far to go.
Because we also live in a time when the abortion rate of children prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome is between 90 and 99% (depending on your source). And no matter what your thoughts are on this incredibly sensitive subject, why is it that this is the best time to live with a disability after birth, but the worst time to have one in utero?
I chalk it up to fear. And I have great compassion for that fear. I held my newborn daughter with that same fear when she was diagnosed at birth. We fear what we don’t understand.
That’s why we need more than just facts—we need faces. We need to meet them, get to know them, understand them. Hug them, talk to them, laugh with them. We need to be more than just aware of Down syndrome, we need to understand those who have Down syndrome.
Why should Down Syndrome Awareness month matter to everyone? Because we all have differences that others might be afraid of. And working toward the inclusion and acceptance of those with disabilities means inclusion and acceptance for all of us.