By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time, according to The Jerome Lejeune Foundation, when “we applaud caregivers, families, and medical professionals — but most of all, we applaud all the wonderful people with Down syndrome.” All during October we will be running new and previously published stories.
The following ran a while back and was prompted by an email sent to me from a reader who said, “Thank you” for the stories we’d run during October’s National 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 and encouragement and fortitude we’ve run over the years. Which brings me to “A world without redheads.”
When Reno Gazette-Journal reporter and columnist Siobhan McAndrew wrote her story, she was a new mom with a 6-month-old daughter.
“A World without redheads” is incredibly powerful. Alas, for some reason, it is no longer included on the Reno Gazette-Journal website which makes our summary all the more useful.
McAndrew 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 a new a new blood test, which detects the chromosomal anomaly that causes Down syndrome at 10 weeks of pregnancy, is just the first of a wave of similar tests which “some say this will become part of a routine prenatal visit.” They worry, Andrew writes,
“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 which helps the reader understand and appreciate how bound and determined these parents are to help remove the awful 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 [www.emilyperlkingsley.com/welcome-to-holland].
What a great column!