I know I promised my next post is supposed to be about bottles and formula. That is coming next, I promise. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately as yesterday Luke turned one, and I’ve been thinking about how ignorant I was about Down syndrome before Luke’s prenatal diagnosis. How I hardly ever seen (or maybe didn’t notice) children or babies with Down syndrome. I’m sure they were there, but did I just turn a blind eye? Or is it because I had assumed that they would look differently than they appeared to me or that maybe I had assumed that they would look all the same?
One of the first things I noticed when I went to Gigi’s Playhouse for the first time after my prenatal diagnosis was that the babies and toddlers I had met were adorable little children. They did not appear to me as a “special needs” group. They were laughing, playing, crawling, some walking around. The mothers were happy and proud, not sad or embarrassed. As I looked around, I also noticed many pictures of children with down syndrome and children at the open play too that did not appear to me to have down syndrome, at least not in the way I had thought. I look and I see the chubby cheeks and smiling faces and the tiny hands. The more I see, the more I think, “I wonder what other people see. I may not be the most observant of people but for many of these children, I just see children. I can see the similarities, but sometimes I have to hunt for the features. These children look more like their families than they do each other.” That last thought was something I wasn’t expecting.
So the more people see these pictures online or in retailer’s ads, these pictures that can shatter stereotypes, maybe this can help educate people not to look at these children (and people) with down syndrome with pity, but see them as who they are – generally happy, strong and confident people. Pictures of babies that show that these are babies that just happen to be a little more flexible than other babies, who may just take longer than “typical” babies of reaching milestones. Of pictures of older children and adults that are playing sports, playing the violin, teaching a class, running a business, like those featured in the Ups for Downs calendar. That the more exposure people have, that the concept of inclusion and acceptance is more the norm than the exception (hopefully that is the case already – not sure yet as we haven’t gotten there yet). That is what I hope for my Luke and that is why I am hoping that the more exposure there is, the more likely that is going to happen.
I had the opportunity to talk to Nancy, mother of Gigi from Gigi’s Playhouse about their annual Gigi Fest and if people were invited who didn’t have children with Down syndrome. Her response surprised me and opened my eyes. She told me that this event was for the community just as much as for the families. That the purpose was to bring the community together with children with down syndrome so that they have exposure. So that they can see that our kids can jump just as much as other children do. That they laugh and play just as other kids do. That if they encounter a child in the future who happens to have Down syndrome, that they will not think of them as different but embrace them as friends instead. Is this not the world we want for our children?
So I am struggling on which picture to use for the Changing the Face of Beauty campaign (click here for more info). This campaign is all about integrated media for children with “disabilities” (not sure if that is the PC term or not). I’m leaning toward the one that is featured on the post. It is a superman position that Luke does often, and I’ve seen other children with Down syndrome doing similar poses. Or should I go with the cute one of Luke with his binky or his kisses face? Let me know in the comments section as I would love to hear your thoughts. I’m also posting some pictures of other children with down syndrome who were at Luke’s first birthday party. When I see his small group of children with down syndrome, I think it shows just how diverse a group we all really are.
Join me in this campaign and help change public perception one face at a time:
“Hey (your favorite retailer) #IMREADY for change. We want YOU to include models with disabilities in 2015. We want YOU to be part of the #15in2015 . 15 retailers including models with disabilities in 2015. We know you see us. Represent us.”
Luke and his binky?
Or Luke’s kissy face? (another expression he does – he’s not actually blowing kisses – it’s more like a raspberry)
Little Party Animals at Luke’s first birthday party