Sunday, 15 September 2013

Poor Her

On Wednesday we went to Olivia's "Welcome Back BBQ" at her school.

There was lots of people, lots confusion and just general sensory overload. Screaming kids, loud music, laughter.  All of it good, yet not.  Make sense? Good.

Stella loves playgrounds. We live directly across the street from a playground and we are there almost every day.  As soon as she saw the playground at Livi's school she started vibrating! Mickey went and got the girls their hot dogs while I took Stella over to play on the equipment.  The playground was busy, very busy.  Stella would climb up a ladder and then just walk around watching all the kids.  She attempted to go up the stairs to the slide, but kids would rush past her and she'd just stand at the base of the stairs....watching....vibrating.  She looked totally enthralled, yet seemed very unsure as she would not go up the stairs and go down the slide.

As Stella walked back and forth, climbed and observed the craziness, kids would look at her, say hi, stop and say "awww, she's so cute!", or just plain ol stare with great intrigue.  One little boy however made me realise just how far we have to go when it comes to seeing all individuals as equal, unique, smart, capable and perfect as they are.

This little boy stopped and looked at Stella, smiled, said "Hi" to her.  Stella looked at him and waved.  I then asked the boy what grade he was in.

"Grade Two"  was his reply.  "She's cute."  he said while smiling at Stella.

"She sure is" I said. "So what is your teacher's name?"  I was curious to see if I would know the teacher he had.

But I guess he didn't hear my question or he had other things on his mind as his answer was "Poor her".

"Poor, who?"

"Poor her" he said, then pointing to Stella.

"Poor her?  Why?" my heart sunk to my shoes. I know he's just a kid, but I really didn't want to hear what he was going to say because I already knew what he was going to say. I wanted to run.

As expected he answers my question with,  "Because she has Down Syndrome."

My reply "Not poor her because she has Down Syndrome. She's awesome and there's nothing wrong with having Down Syndrome."  My heart was breaking. I wanted to go and slap whatever adult had misled him to believe such mistruths.

This kid was cute, he was still smiling happily away at Stella, still engaging in conversation. So I asked him  "Do you know what Down Syndrome is?"

"It's when you can't do things like talk."

"Actually Down Syndrome is when you have extra chromosomes in your body.  Stella can talk, it is just taking her a little longer."

And then this kid says  "I have a friend who has Down Syndrome and he talks pretty good.  His name is Luke."

"Well then you know first hand that Down Syndrome is nothing to feel bad about. Your friend has it and you seem to think he's great!"

And with that he nodded and wandered off.

Standing up on the playground equipment, watching Stella watch all the other kids, I felt sad, but mostly annoyed and slightly pissed off.

What adult/parent has passed on this message to an innocent 7 year old kid?  Someone in his life has at some point equated "Down Syndrome = Poor, poor kid."

This is why I am blogging.

This is why I am telling this story today.

This viewpoint of Down Syndrome needs to change.

But we as adults, as parents, need to be the example.  We need to let go of stereotypes and labels that society has placed on those with disabilities.  The automatic assumption, the "tsk, tsk, cute poor little kid with Down Syndrome."

Children are very perceptive. This little boy was friends with a kid with Down Syndrome yet somehow he still "felt sorry" for Stella. What is he hearing and seeing to make him still have a negative perception of Down Syndrome?  

Stella needs no pity. Her extra chromosome has presented her with some extra challenges.  But these challenges are obstacles that she can and will overcome.

Sophie sucks her thumb....still. She has tried a few times to stop sucking her thumb. This is her challenge, her obstacle to overcome. Yet she is not pitied when she is walking around sucking on her thumb. No one says "awww poor cute girl who sucks her thumb." No one looks at her and assumes that she's just always going to suck her thumb. 

 Why? Because we know that eventually she will overcome that obstacle, that challenge.

Same goes for Stella. Her current obstacle is speech.  But just because right now she's not running around having long conversations with people doesn't mean that she won't. Having DS also doesn't automatically mean that she'll speak poorly when she does become more verbal. 

I guess the long winded point that I am trying to make is that when we pity someone with a disability, when we make assumptions based on a label given to someone, we lower our expectations of that person.  We see them as "less".

That is a big mistake that we as society are making. 

Having Down Syndrome does not make Stella "less then".

Having Down Syndrome does not make Stella sad.

Having Down Syndrome does not make Stella less human.

Wake up society.

Take a look at these two videos and tell me if you pity these two kids.

Never underestimate.


  1. Well said. This is a beautiful post. I hope you planted some seeds for that little boy so the next time he meets someone who has Down Syndrome, he'll respond with happiness.

  2. I get it! I often wonder when an adult talks about another child with there child how they can make such opinions to the child...with no consideration of truth or bias...when I hear children having an opinion about Maddie I ask where they got it from...I also talk with them and try to correct it...just like you! I think if parents just ask there child what they see and how it made them feel...they will see truly how our children are just like there's! My 7 year old boy spent the summer at a special needs camp just because...he learned so much and now he does not think about anything but if the other child is a good friend...not what extras they may come is the adults that usually have the issue...thank you for sharing and correcting! Smiles

  3. "I guess the long winded point that I am trying to make is that when we pity someone with a disability, when we make assumptions based on a label given to someone, we lower our expectations of that person. We see them as "less".--EXACTLY.
    Another excellent post. I really like how you steered the conversation with that little boy. Like you said, kids are perceptive, and hopefully he will remember what you said the next time he see another person with Ds. btw, the little girl in that last video is awesome! Her reading AND speech skills are amazing. I especially liked when she read "Cracker Barrel".

  4. Excellent post my friend! Russell still gets looks of pity sometimes when we got out. It makes me sad. He has a great life...I just wish people could see that. I think you handled things beautifully when talking with that little boy. Maybe that will be a conversation he remembers for the rest of his life. Loved the cute little videos on here. Our kids are capable of so much, more people need to be aware of that.