Life with Down Syndrome – we are more alike than different!

Posted: October 1, 2012 in Christian, disability, Down Syndrome, Future, God, Identity, Prejudice, Pro-life, thankfulness
Tags: , , ,

Are you happy?   If you had to fill out a form right now and tick the box that best reflects your state of mind what would you choose:

1. Yes, I am content 

2. I am partially content

3.  No, I am not content

Recently I came across a survey which stated that 99% of people in a particular life situation claimed to be happy – a shockingly high figure!*  So who are this group of seriously happy people?  At first I wondered if stay at home mums were the happy bunch, enjoying the satisfaction of rearing their children themselves rather than leaving them in daycare.  Then I remembered that those who have family around often score more highly in polls for contentment levels, but it turns out that neither of my considerations were the category of people whom this questionnaire had been targeted at.  The group under scrutiny had been adults with Down Syndrome, and nearly all of them had said that they were content with their life.

José Omar is in his twenties and hails from Venezuela.  Although he was born with Down Syndrome he has forged a career as a musical conductor, reaching the point where he is taken seriously enough in the profession to be allowed to conduct the Children’s Symphony Orchestra for his country.  That is more than some musically talented young men without DS achieve!  He is happy with his life.

Until last week I knew very little about the capability levels of those who are born with this condition, but as October is Down Syndrome awareness month I thought I would try to understand it a bit more.  I was humbled and surprised to discover that many adults with DS live on their own, hold down jobs, graduate with academic qualifications, do all their own housework and even get married.

A campaign was launched in America called ‘WE’RE MORE ALIKE THAN DIFFERENT’, highlighting that those with Down Syndrome have dreams and aspirations just like anyone else.  [The video at the end provides a brief but moving compilation of stories.]  It is not all about career success though.  Many adults and children with Down Syndrome have a unique ability to bring joy to an entire room full of people in a way that those of us without DS would struggle to do.  One lady who is involved in raising awareness said,

I wish that parents would stop giving up on the kids and assuming that because they have a disability that they can’t do things”.

Powerful words.

On average around 75% of women who discover that their child could be born with Down Syndrome terminate the pregnancy**.  I wonder if raising awareness of how happy many of those with DS are will see a shift in society’s attitude towards them, giving them the opportunity not only to live but to show the world just how capable they are.

© Maria Rodrigues-Toth

* I acknowledge that no survey is fully accurate but they can very often give us an indicator or guide of a trend.

** Of 9 hospital-based studies conducted in 6 American states between 1995-2011, selective terminations for Down syndrome ranged between 60-90%, with the average at 85%, so figures vary dependant upon state and country.

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