Is It News?

One thing that keeps popping into my mind is whether or not people with Down syndrome doing every day things is worthy of a news story. I’ve been thinking about it for a year and I still don’t have an answer.

Part of me thinks “sure, why not?” It’s a chance for people in the typical world to see how normal life can be with Down syndrome. These stories put a human face on an oft misunderstood diagnosis. I especially don’t mind when the story is about something that most people don’t do, regardless of chromosomes. This story about a teen achieving the Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts is a good example. It takes so much work to become an Eagle Scout that I think anyone achieving that rank is worthy of a news story.

Another part of me is annoyed by it. I feel like it feeds into the “people need to overcome disability” mentality, or celebrating that someone accomplished something despite who they are. Down syndrome is part of who Rowenna is – saying she “overcame” her disability to achieve something is like saying she overcame having blue eyes, or was able to do something despite having two legs. I wish it wasn’t news that people with Down syndrome go to college or get married or hold a job. They didn’t overcome anything (well, maybe discrimination…) and they didn’t do it despite anything. They just did it because these are things people do every day – fall in love, go to work, socialize with friends.

One of my biggest hopes for the future is that Rowenna can get married or drive a car or go to college or have a job…all without making headlines.

To me, that would be a sign of true inclusion. If this beautiful girl of mine can find her life partner and get married and no one even bats an eye…well, that would be a great thing. It would be great for it to be so normal no one thinks twice!

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ilisa Ailts on June 7, 2011 at 5:03 am

    I never thought of this, but it is exactly true. These things should be celebrated but then what is the message? Now I have to go think about this more!


  2. Ha! Oh yes. This post totally cracked me up. Have you read ‘No Pity’ by Joseph Shapiro yet? Such an excellent read (you have to overlook his language sometimes though). Also: Paul Longmore wrote a lot on this, also excellent. When I directed the employment program at UC Berkeley for students with disabilities, I encountered this kind of thing ALL THE TIME. In some cases (like graduating from Berkeley with a PhD) it was incredibly well-deserved – that’s hard for anyone (like your example with the Eagle scout), but in other cases, it was a big eye roll (“Oh! Person who uses a wheelchair! Alive! Smiling! WOW!!!!”)
    I have the same hopes for Moxie – that she’ll do it all and it won’t be a big deal in and of itself.


  3. ps. Okay, that has got to the cutest swimsuit EVER!


  4. I look at it as you’ve got to start somewhere. And if it’s making news today, tomorrow and the next day, eventually it *won’t* make news anymore because it’ll be so commonplace and ordinary. But in the meantime, as it’s making the news, people who do not have a connection to someone with Down syndrome will begin to get the More Alike Than Different message. Baby steps… 🙂


  5. Oh yeah, and I’m with Meriah on the swimsuit…


  6. Well said!


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