Guest Blogger Krystal Gurganus on Down Syndrome Awareness

Meet Landon!

He is 11 years old and loves the same things you do. He loves playing outside, playing ball, and swimming.

Landon also has Down Syndrome.

Down Syndrome is something that causes differences in the way a child looks and learns. Babies with Down Syndrome are born with an extra chromosome in some or all of their cells. Chromosomes are tiny little things in your body and they help to tell your body how to grow, what color of eyes you will have, your hair color, how big your nose will be and even if you will be a good singer, plus many, many more things.

When a child has an extra chromosome, it mixes up his or hers development a little. That is why individuals with Down Syndrome look a little different, talk different, and learn different.

But other than that, they are more like you than not!!! They have feelings, they love to laugh and learn new things, it just may take them a little longer.

Tips to talk about Down Syndrome:

  • The correct terminology is ” Down Syndrome” not “Downs”
  • People with Down Syndrome are born with it, its not contagious, it doesn’t develop later in life.
  •  Use person-first language: Why? A person should not be defined by their disability. Emphasize the person, its not “Downs Kid”
  • Be Positive! A person is not ” Suffering from” Down Syndrome. People with Down Syndrome can lead fulfilling lives-they can go to college, get married, work, just like everyone else.
  • End the r-word! The r-word is often used in everyday speech in a derogatory, and hateful way. If you stop using it, you help promote the acceptance of people with all disabilities, including Down Syndrome.
  • Some kids talk in their own way, some can’t speak at all, but they have other ways of communication.
  • Some walk in their own unique way. Some even wear braces on their feet to help them walk.
  • Some kids act certain way because it makes them feel comfortable, like they repeat words, flap their arms or rock back and forth.
  • Talk about what’s more alike than different. A child with Down Syndrome is still a child. Just like any kid, they enjoy just what we all do. They have favorite colors, songs, foods, and TV shows.

Introducing children with Down Syndrome to your child

 

As a parent of a child with a disability, I know that children often stare, point and ask some pretty curious questions. They are kids and they should be curious. They often do not know any better. Its possible they have never met a child with Down Syndrome.

If I’d never had a child with special needs, I probably wouldn’t have thought to talk to my kids about disabilities. But I did, and like many parents of children with disabilities, I am painfully aware of the fact that other children are sometimes wary of my child, sometimes even afraid to talk to him.

I am so happy to be able to help you and explain my personal thoughts and experiences of how to help you discuss special needs with your children in fun kid language. 

They love their Mom and Dad, like any kid.  Their parents love them, like any kid.  There is no reason to feel sad for them.

Ask your child to talk with a child with Down Syndrome, tell them this: ” Start with saying ‘Hi.”

Most importantly, Kids are all different, and they have different strengths as well as things that are harder for them. Some things that are easy for you, are very difficult for others. It takes a lot of courage for kids with disabilities to keep trying and working on things.

Whenever you see someone with a disability, remember that even though they may be having a hard time, they’re still kids who need friends and understanding.

You could also always use a book to kick off a discussion about kids with Down Syndrome. A few good ones:

My Friend has Down Syndrome

My Friend Isabelle

Visit our local non-profit organization, Down Syndrome Family Alliance of Greenville for more information.

I hope this helps you bring up Down Syndrome in a positive, compassionate, and comprehensive conversation and I hope you will continue to help us share love, support and acceptance for all disabilities.

Lots of love,

Krystal Gurganus

Landons Mom

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