October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month but we Like to Call it Down Syndrome Acceptance Month
As I travel along this path of parenting a child with Down syndrome, I have to admit that I have mixed emotions regarding October and Down Syndrome Awareness Month. On one hand, I celebrate the idea that we should promote awareness for everyone who has Down syndrome but I cringe at the thought that we should celebrate Down syndrome. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things about Down syndrome that are worth celebrating, but it is worth acknowledging that it is not all rainbows and unicorns. Parenting a typical kiddo is tough and I will admit that there are times that parenting a kiddo with Down syndrome is just plain hard.
In a recent national call for GiGi’s Playhouse, they presented the idea that we can pitch October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month but also as Down Syndrome Acceptance Month. This is an idea that I can really get behind. Accepting that your child has Down syndrome is one of the first steps on that path toward reaching your ‘new normal’ as a parent. Promoting acceptance of your child with Down syndrome is part of a lifelong challenge and one that many parents can say YES, this is where I’d like to go. This doesn’t mean that we want to promote the idea that individuals with Down syndrome aren’t challenged, it means that we want to promote acceptance because all our kiddos can achieve with that challenge. It means acknowledging that people with Down syndrome are awesome, can defy expectations, and are worthy of our awareness no matter what their level of achievement. In short, promoting the idea that individuals with Down syndrome bring something to our society and are capable of achieving more than we expect.
After 14 years on this journey, I can assure you it is not all rainbows and unicorns. It can be challenging at times but also can take you to a place you never thought you’d go. My little man has taught me more about acceptance than I ever thought I was capable of. Because of him, I am better able to accept my other children, better able to see the potential in everyone, and better able to accept his capabilities. I wish I could bestow this life lesson on everyone but I know that is not likely. In the meantime, I will promote October as Down Syndrome Acceptance….I mean Awareness Month.
-Sue, President of the Milwaukee Board of Directors and mom to Jake