Today, March 21st, we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day! All over the world, those with and without an extra chromosome rejoice the presence of those individuals with three copies of the 21st chromosome. There are parades in the streets and high fives a plenty. Pregnant women wait anxiously for their chromosomal blood test results, grasping their hands together tightly in hopes that their baby will have Down syndrome. Children at the playground see them, those with wider-set eyes and flat nasal bridges, and invite them to play. They know the gifts they have for finding joy in the mundane, the hugs given so freely to provide comfort when everyone else walks away. Teachers smile wide when they see their names on the classroom roster, for they know that when this student learns a concept, it will be hard earned and their efforts appreciated. When you turn on the television, your child’s favorite cartoon has a few characters with Trisomy 21, and their images are found on T-shirts all over Target.
Parties go on throughout the night on World Down Syndrome Day. Keg stands are encouraged, and the karaoke machine is dusted off. We celebrate with gusto, for those created just so. We celebrate these people, who toe the line of uniqueness and likeness, wearing their differences on their own skin while fighting to be seen, heard, and loved.
What I would give to make this all true. To celebrate chromosomal differences with such enthusiasm that they were no longer things to fear. More live births, less gloom-and-doom prenatal diagnoses that make a baby sound like an affliction. It begins with education and modeling from us moms. And that education starts with people-first language, such as “a child WITH Down syndrome,” and a nudge to have our children ask those with disabilities on a play date or to their birthday party. It looks like a toddler board book of Kids Like Me Learn Colors, in which our children are exposed to those who may look different than them. It feels like acceptance and encouragement of those denied it for so long.
This day of celebration for those with Down Syndrome may be hard for outsiders to understand, but one day, they will see that we are the *Lucky Few.
Additional book suggestions to teach children about people with Down Syndrome:
*The Lucky Few is a term coined by Heather Avis, author of The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places.