This is a nice story in the fact that someone helped Suzie, but the fact that the cashier and Carly both had Down syndrome add further to it.
Was Suzie judged? Was the cashier judged?
This is Suzie’s final comment in the article:
‘I interacted with a lot of people at the grocery store. There was a woman who scolded me for not having shoes on Carly on a cold day, (she kicked them off), a clerk who was less than interested in helping me find an item, and an impatient person that shoved past because we were following behind an elderly gentleman that was moving slowly when they were in a hurry.
Some people feel like people with Down syndrome don’t contribute anything meaningful to society, but amidst all the Grinches today, she stood apart. And just being her, she gave us an amazing gift. A smile.”
A Current Affair aired a story about Jordan who has Cerebral Palsy and a speech impairment. The story showed Jordan with his walker, in a city square, asking for directions to the bathroom. It was distressing for me to watch the large number of people who ignored his requests even though they willingly gave directions to his able-bodied mate, Conan.
The public made judgements about Jordan, maybe even subconsciously, which led them to ignoring him.
Do you pass judgements on people?
I think we’d be deceiving ourselves if we said we don't. Whether it’s over people frittering their money away, those addicted to substances, the lady having an abortion, homeless people, or non-English speaking group talking in their own language instead of English, we often have an opinion, or a judgement, without knowing the story or situation.
It's easy to do.
- Growing up with a facial difference, there was an active presumption that I looked different so I must have an intellectual impairment. I have a Masters degree with honours - so this is definitely untrue. This same judgement is still around today as we've encountered it with Melissa and Nick who are A/B students. Jordan above has said that people presume he has an intellectual disability too which he doesn't. It shouldn't matter whether you do or not, but you are treated differently when the public thinks you do.
- I've been judged for having children with Crouzon syndrome, when I knew the risk was 50/50 for each pregnancy. Even though it was Joe and my choice and we are the ones raising the children, people still thought they had the right to pass on their opinions to me, in person and on-line. (Social media and YouTube bring out the best and worst in people.) I have a friend in the UK who was on a TV program. He's currently going through this exact same thing, but on a larger scale.
- Joe and I met on-line, and he came out from the USA to meet me. We were both judged on this way of meeting. Yes it was risky, but it worked. When Melissa was born, Joe became the stay-at-home carer but we were told by others that men don’t do that. People particularly in the church told us this. Men go to work and women stay home.
- Our Nick is eleven years old . He's been judged by other children because he likes ‘girl gender’ things. He collects dolls and Shopkins, his favourite colour is pink, he's growing his hair long, and he likes to wear clothes that are bright and colourful.
- And finally Jessica. Having Down syndrome has meant judgements with a capital J. It's like there's a ground set of abilities that she should have and that's it. The attitude, 'she has Down syndrome... so she won't be able to, or she doesn't have to do...' has seen Jessica actively excluded from activities, instead of being supported so she can be included.
So what do you do, when you're judged?
If you give in to these judgements you're allowing other people to control you. You should be in control of your life and decisions, not others.
A good example of people actively supporting us is what we have experienced with Jessica and our local swimming club. We joined Nick up first. One of the ladies who knows Jess from swim lessons, asked why we hadn't signed her up too. We said because she can't swim well enough (we'd read the rules of joining). She told us that Jess should be coming and they'd have a support person in the water with her, so the swimming ability wasn't an issue. We joined her up, and her accomplishments are celebrated just like the others.
I will finish with this quote from the Dalai Lama.