Friday, March 15, 2013

#92 He Isn't Afraid of Down Syndrome

All That Matters About People with Down Syndrome

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day.  The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of individuals with Down syndrome.  I thought, what better way to do this then answering the top five questions I have received about my brother, Jonathan, over and over again.  

Here we go.

My Top Five Questions About Down Syndrome

1. How do you get Down syndrome? In other words, Is it something in your genes?
Down syndrome is not something you can catch.  It is not something caused by anything that the mother did right or wrong during her pregnancy.  Having someone with Down syndrome in your family does not make your chances of having a child with Down syndrome greater or lesser.

2. How should I act around someone with Down syndrome?
Treat a person with Down syndrome exactly as you would treat any other person, however, that is assuming that you treat the average person according to the Golden Rule.  My brother does not want or ask for special treatment, although his personality may make you want to give it to him.  He is privy to an over abundance of positive attention from the female population.  And of course, he'll never turn that down. 

3. Can he talk?
It took a long time for Jonathan to be able to talk in a comprehensible way using complete sentences, however, other individuals with Down syndrome speak very clear at an earlier age.  Their ability to speak is related to the level that they function.  There are high functioning individuals with Down syndrome who speak clearly at an earlier age, who can communicate easily on their own, and who are able to attend regular public school in an inclusion classroom.  There are others that are lower functioning who may never talk and will have to attend a school that is fit to help with their special needs.  Jonathan falls in the middle.  He will turn 21 this July and only within the last four or five years has he really begun to blossom in his communication.  He has always been able to string together a few words, but only over the last few years has he been amazing my family with expressing himself and how much he understands about the world around him.      

4. Would he hurt me?
Jonathan would never hurt anyone.  He is gentle, loving, and caring.  Typically anger and uncontrolled emotions are not responses I've seen as a major piece in individuals with Down syndrome.  However, stubbornness certainly is.  Sometimes it can be avoided, however, there are certain triggers that will make a person with Down syndrome shut down.  At that point, I'm pretty sure you would have better luck with a stubborn mule than with a stubborn person with Down syndrome.

5. What is his life expectancy?
Years ago, individuals with Down syndrome were treated horribly.  They were institutionalized and put in places where they could not flourish and embrace their full life potential.  Therefore, at that time the age expectancy was very low.  Today, due to the way our nation has chosen to invest in individuals with special needs, the life expectancy of someone with Down syndrome is about 60-years-old.     

There is no way I could end this post here.  No way I would sign off by giving you the textbook answers to these questions without also letting you know the deeper emotional view of knowing someone with Down syndrome.  

That's why I've comprised this list:

The Top Five Things I Love About Those With Down Syndrome

1. They give the best hugs.
You will never see Jonathan and not get a hug.  It's not a 'pat, pat, hello' hug either.  It's an 'ohmygoodness, I'm so glad to see you' hug.  It's a Pop hug.  It's sincere.  Even better than that, if you want another, he'll give it to you.  

2. They will never judge you, so you can be completely yourself around them.
Best example of this?  Jonathan is the only person I will do a workout video with.  I've currently been working out to "Hip Hop Abs" videos.  I won't even let my hubby in the room when I do these workouts, because I know how truly ridiculous I look jumping around my living room in workout clothes.  But Jonathan?  He's always invited in.  And although he is just as quick as anyone else to make fun of me when I look silly, I know he is never judging or comparing me to anyone or anything else.

3. They love life.  
It's so easy for us to mope and complain about how we had a bad day.  About how we aren't getting what we think we deserve.  About how we are so stressed.  Someone like Jonathan never has one of those complaints.

Sure, he has his moments of moodiness, of sleepiness, and of wanting to be alone.  But more often than not Jonathan is always up for adventure and fun.  He's ready at a moment's notice to do whatever you want and is always the best partner in crime.  He is free loving and carefree.

He makes it his purpose to make you happy, to have fun with you.

4. They love the best things in life.
'I Love Lucy', McDonalds, swimming, trains to NYC, Christmas, concerts, plays, taking pictures, laughing, eating, relaxing, ice cream, Starbucks, going to church, shopping, staying up late, going out for breakfast, making funny faces, wrestling, bowling, talking on the phone, going for walks, watching TV, hamburgers, bacon, cats, dogs, going to the movies, helping friends, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, parties, weddings...

just to name a few.

These are things that make Jonathan's day.  They'll light him up and get him to talk your ear off until you do one of them with him.  

5. They love to dance, sing, smile.  Shamelessly.
This is my favorite.  A world without any of these three things is not one worth living in.

A world without people with Down syndrome is not worth living in either.

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