Tags: In This Issue, Special Needs
Down Syndrome's Rising Potential
Marty Mason was born with Down syndrome. His mother Vicki Dayan was advised to put him in an institution and have other kids. She was told he would never read or write and would likely never walk or talk all that well either. It was the 1960s.
Rush Hoffman was born with Down syndrome in 2011. His prognosis was different to say the least. So different in fact that his parents were told that there's never been a better time to be born with Down syndrome.
"It's the same condition but we know so much more about what these kids are capable of. For so long, we as a society held them back with low expectations. Now that we know more we've raised the bar and they are rising up to meet those expectations. I have no reason to believe that Rush won't have at least a similar future as the one I had dreamed for him," said Rush's mom Sierra Hoffman. She considers high school, college, marriage and a career as plausible options for her son.
In Hoffman's estimation, early interventions and other therapeutic advances are helping kids with the intellectual disability reach their full potential. She believes it's time for society to realize the potential of kids with Down syndrome, too. Others agree and weigh in:
It's nothing to fear. Stacey Wilt, Carmel mom of three, including one with Down syndrome, says the disability is nothing to be afraid of. "People who have a child with Down syndrome or a disability get it. If you don't or haven't had that experience within your family then there's a fear, but it's really not a big deal. There's a little more work with aspects of school, but other kids require work too in different areas," she said.
"My daughter needs everything everybody else does. My main fight is inclusion and for people to realize she is just like anybody else. Sometimes she can be really shy so people think she doesn't understand things because she doesn't talk as much, but what she understands is more than what people think," said Lisa Hipkiss of Noblesville.
They are more similar to "typical" kids than different. Carole Guess says her son with Down syndrome is a lot like his typical peers. He likes superheroes and sports. He goes to school. "They enjoy the same things and as adults they will experience the same types of things. They will go through puberty. They will fall in and out of love. A lot of them get married. There are even couples now that are having children. Our kids go to school. Our kids can get college credit. Some have degrees," said Guess. In fact, she says there is no reason why any child with Down syndrome would not be fully included in typical social and religious life. "There's accommodations for everything," she said.
These kids can do a lot for themselves. While her son cannot read and write beyond a few basic things, and likely because early interventions weren't around in the 60s, Dayan's son can do for himself. He can use the microwave, iron clothes, do laundry, run the sweeper and more. "If something were to happen to me I would rest in peace knowing he could go into a supported living situation and be perfectly fine because he has the life skills he needs to survive in the world. He can take care of himself," she said. Kids with Down syndrome can have responsibilities and learn to get along in the world.
Life is sweet. "We've learned to just slow down and enjoy the journey instead of being so focused on the destination. It takes Rush longer to do things that come easy for a lot of babies, but that doesn't mean he won't get there. He always does. It just makes all his successes a little sweeter," said Hoffman.