Friday, 4 September 2015

A world without preconceived ideas about Down syndrome

"Down syndrome. Does that mean that Phoenix is smarter than everyone else?"
I've been thinking about this comment for a few days now. We have a lovely teenager who lives next door who has been babysitting the kids this summer to give me a break and let me run errands. She's been a super caregiver who has stepped up to learn how to manage 3 kids, how to cook them lunch, how to make bottles and how to gently discipline two naughty boundary pushing toddlers. "P" has been dependable and hard working and has learned how to do a great job when stepping into mommy shoes.
P said that comment to me a few days ago. She's looked after Phoenix for 2 months now and knows that Phoenix has a speech delay with difficulty with articulation. She knows that Phoenix is still not potty trained and she knows that Phoenix is an incredible sight reader who loves reading her word cards.
P clearly knows nothing about DS, has never met another person or child with DS and has no preconceived notions about what DS is all about and what people with DS are capable of. So in her mind, it's totally possible that having DS could mean that Phoenix is smarter than everyone else.
So while at first I thought about her comment being naïve and a symptom of her leading a fairly sheltered life, I'm starting to realize the broader implications of her question and her understanding of peoples differences. Her perspective is beautiful.
 Because when you meet a person with an obvious difference and you place none of your own ideas about their talents and abilities, you are able to embrace them as an equal partner or member of your world. D perceives Phoenix as an intelligent, happy child who is a good learner with a talent for reading words. And in truth, that is Phoenix now.
 But can you imagine a world where no one projected their own preconceived ideas onto our children with differences? Can you imagine the possibilities? 
"Down syndrome. Does that mean that Phoenix is smarter than everyone else?"
For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of a world where Phoenix was accepted just like everyone else. It was, like Phoenix likes to say, AMAZING.