When I get tagged and go to look at the posts concerning Down syndrome, sometimes I am touched by them, sometimes I am inspired by the person as I know how hard it is for a person with DS to achieve certain things in life, due to their cognitive and muscular limitations, and sometimes I am annoyed by them.
I usually have a reaction based on the comments below the post, and also based on the person or people in the video, or what captions there are. Having a child with Down syndrome has allowed me into a window that not a lot of people see into. If I related it to a car, I don’t just look from the outside seeing the state of the paintwork or the scratches on the doors or how shiny the rims are, I sit in the seat beside the person sitting in the backseat. I can see the steering wheel, the brake pedal, the seatbelt, the chewing gum stuck in the compartment, and the dirty hairbrush in the door. You get the idea I am sure.
So the post that prompted this blog post was a video of a young boy, who was 6 years old, holding his baby brother, looking down at him and singing to him. Of course his baby brother had Down syndrome. The boy was singing the song, 10 000 Hours. This video had been filmed, subtitles added and then shared, and it went instantly viral. This is the YouTube version:
The video to me was okay.
I have pictures of my two eldest reading to Jessica my daughter when she was a baby. I have a picture of my son at 3, sitting with her, his face touching her face, while she was propped up in the clothes basket with pillows. I have pictures of my 6 year old holding Jessica’s bottle as she couldn’t. Now were these pictures on the internet? No. Did I have a video of them singing to her? No. But I know they sang to her, and danced to her, and played with her. I remember Jessica tummy crawling after them and stealing their toys, and her older brother and sister getting angry at her. All normal kid things.
When Jessica was growing up, my kids didn’t go, ‘Oh she has Down syndrome. We should treat her differently.’ No way did they say that! In fact if she was having something different, they protested. They wanted her to be treated the way they were.
It’s only been since my eldest two have been in high school and they’ve seen me battling the barriers and prejudices in the education system that I’ve talked to them about the prejudices and attitudes in society.
Siblings are a sister or brother first. They don’t know how society feels about Down syndrome. They don’t know that by treating their sibling the same as a ‘normal’ sibling, that they are being inspirational to some adults in the world.
If Down syndrome wasn’t seen as such a terrible thing to be born with, and if obstetricians didn’t put in people’s heads that it had to be tested for because they believe that a person with DS won't never lead a successful life and will be a burden. And if society embraced differences as a whole, then people wouldn’t be seeing these videos as inspirational and they wouldn't be going viral. When I was looking at the post on Facebook I read through the comments and there were women saying they were crying, and everyone else felt all warm and fuzzy inside.
Me, the practical one wrote, my own comment, which was totally different to the ones already posted. It was my comment which triggered this blog post. I told them that the boy would have no idea that the baby had DS. He was just singing a song to his baby brother. A song his mother would have taught him.
Obviously his mum knew what she was doing. In teaching him and videoing it, and releasing it out onto social media, she hoped people would see it, and comment, and feel all warm and fuzzy, and probably in the hope that there would be more acceptance of Down syndrome in the world. I can’t blame her for wanting to do that. If I am honest I post things about my daughter achieving things, just to show others that Down syndrome does not stop her from leading a good life, from doing the things she loves to do, from going to regular school with average kids, and from being happy.
Now I have to say here that my daughter is happy because she knows her family loves her and she is valued. A valued person will go on to have a good life. Knowing you're valued gives that inner self-belief that a person has a place in the world, and even if they are knocked down by disbelievers, they will stand back up again and keep going.
I would like to leave you with a piece of friendly advice. If you see a post or a video of a baby with Down syndrome, look to see what it is. I have to reemphasis that I am impressed with many of things that people with DS are achieving. For example, I look at the gymnast who I know has worked doubly hard to get to her goal, because of the syndrome’s extreme low muscle tone. I look at the business owners who are working and making a genuine living.
From the moment my daughter was born I have watched a young lady with DS who lives near us. I had never noticed her before the birth. I noticed she lived in a unit, she went to work, she shopped independently, she was out exercising… basically she was doing what average adults do, and what we were told our daughter would never do. This lady soon became our role model.
If the post you're looking at is something showing a child or adult with DS achieving something that regular or average people do, that would be difficult for them to achieve because of the prejudices and barriers in our society, share it. Definitely share it. But if it is something like a 6-year-old boy singing to his little brother or sister, which is something all kids normally do, unless they are jealous, then think about why is it being shared? Is it being shared because there is so much prejudice and wrong beliefs out there in society that the author feels the need to put it out in the world.
Just a thought.