By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. As our many faithful readers know, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and all through it, we post new and older stories about children with Down syndrome and their wonderful families.
The following post was prompted by an email sent to me a while back that came from a reader who said “Thank you” for the stories we’d run during Down Syndrome Awareness Month. She asked, ever so politely, if once that special awareness month had ended, would coverage end with it?
I wrote back promising, “Of course not,” and pointed her to the many, many stories of hope, encouragement, and fortitude we’ve run over the years. Which brings me to “A world without redheads.”
“A world without redheads” was written by Reno Gazette-Journal education writer and columnist Siobhan McAndrew. At the time she wrote her piece, she was a new mom with a 6-month-old daughter. She used as the basis for her column a support group meeting for families of children with Down syndrome.
The group of 18 parents are immensely proud of their children but keenly aware that what was then a new a new blood test, which detects the chromosomal anomaly that causes Down syndrome at 10 weeks of pregnancy, was just the first of a wave of similar tests which “some say this will become part of a routine prenatal visit.”
They worry, McAndrew wrote
“that if more people know, and know sooner in a pregnancy, that they are having a child with Down syndrome, more will decide to abort. They worry the medical community will give parents worst-case scenarios about raising a child with a disability.”
This marvelous account helped the reader understand and appreciate how these parents are bound and determined to help remove the negative stereotypes about the families who have children with Down syndrome.
To offer only one example,
“The Down syndrome community points to studies that show that an overwhelming majority of parents with children with Down syndrome are happy with their decision to have their child and that their son or daughter is a great source of joy and pride.”
But what makes this story so immensely moving is McAndrew’s tender use of the story “Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsley, a writer for “Sesame Street,” who has a son with Down syndrome.
“A world without redheads” is an inspirational read, if ever there was one.