We celebrated World Down Syndrome Day on Monday, March 21, 16. Why March 21st? Because it is a recognition of the triplication of the 21st chromosome where Down Syndrome is usually located.
British physician, John Langdon Down, first identified Down Syndrome in 1866 although initially he labeled it as Mongolism due to the characteristic eye shape. In 1959, Jerome LeJeune discovered that individuals with Down Syndrome have an extra chromosome that usually presents on the 21st chromosome.
In 1960, the National Association for Down Syndrome was founded in Chicago, Illinois. While the organization was the first of it’s kind to offer support to families of children with Down Syndrome, societies views were still much less enlightened. In those days people who gave birth to children with DS were usually told:
Forget they had given birth
to this child
Put them in an institution because they knew how to care for them
They will never learn to walk, talk, read, or write
They will be a burden
The will have no value as a human being
Fast forward to 1991 and the birth of my son who was born with Down Syndrome. I found out when I was 12 weeks pregnant that my son would most likely have Down Syndrome and a few weeks later, it was confirmed. My initial response was denial then grief. This couldn’t be happening and especially happening to me but by the time my son was born, I had decided to make the best of my circumstances.
I cannot say that having a child with Down Syndrome has always been easy but it has taught me 3 very important things.
1. Blessings can be disguised as obstacles
I could not have imagined my life today
2. Challenges teach us lessons otherwise untaught
3. We choose our perspective
Two people may go through the same experiences, it is through choice and perspective that one comes out defeated while the other comes out on top of the world.
Because of my son, I have learned persistence to begin what others say I cannot do. I have learned determination to keep trying until I succeed and I have developed the strength to try again when I fail.
For me, World Down Syndrome Day was and is a celebration.
*A celebration of a new appreciation of life.
*An eye opening experience that has taught me to appreciate the lessons learned through obstacles
*A celebration of who I have become and who I yet will be.
Because of Down Syndrome and the courage of those who celebrate it , I have been privileged to know the gift that is my son and the opportunity to know the value that is in each of us.