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The One Thing That’s True About Every Person with Down Syndrome

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
10/09/18  11:18 AM PST
down syndrome

When my son Alex was born with Down syndrome, we sought out our local Down syndrome community. In the 16 years that have transpired since then, I have met dozens, if not hundreds, of people with Down syndrome, and adopted another child with Down syndrome. The one thing I know to be true about all people with Down syndrome is this:

Every single one of them is a unique individual.

Take my two children for instance. Alex likes singing, Marvel movies, gaming, Disney, hot dogs, pizza, and flirting. Ben likes Matchbox cars, fail vines, board games, riding his quad, playing baseball and pizza. There isn’t much overlap.

down syndrome

So often I hear stereotypes and assumptions about people with Down syndrome like “They’re always so happy”, or “they’re just so loving”. Often it is a positive stereotype. But a generalization, even a kind or positive one, can lump people together and tell a false story.

While I believe that these clichés are well-meaning, they don’t actually serve my sons or anyone else who has Down syndrome well. Maybe because those stereotypes are about characteristics deemed positive, they seem innocent enough, but I don’t think they actually serve anybody well.

Imagine your family is really funny, most of you can make anyone laugh about anything. But there are a couple of more serious folks in the family who are pretty quiet. When people talk about your family, they always mention the notorious sense of humor. Sure, there’s some truth to the reputation, but not all of you have that trait, and even the people who do, don’t want to be known primarily for one characteristic. I mean, who wants to be the funny family at a funeral?

The point is, nobody wins when assumptions are made. The person making the assumption can miss out on what is actually there because they think they already know, and the person on the receiving end doesn’t get a chance to be seen for the person they are.

Like I said, I’ve met dozens, if not hundreds of people with Down syndrome, and each and every one of them has only one thing in common with the rest and that’s a third 21st chromosome. Everything else is as unique to the individual as is the case in the general population. If you happen to meet one of them, do me a favor and toss your preconceptions out the window, and take the time to get to know the person in front of you, and don’t be surprised if they aren’t particularly loving or always happy.

inclusion on the playground

Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.

Follow her on Facebook.

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