When I look at the beautiful pictures of children with Down syndrome and the posts from parents I am reminded of what an amazing journey I am having in life since the birth of my son, Tait. It wasn’t an easy journey, not because of the Down syndrome, but about not knowing if I was prepared to be the type of mom he needed. Tait has shown me that the Down syndrome is secondary to the fact that he is a regular kid wanting to do what all the other kids are doing.
I learned how to advocate for him in the community, in the schools and will continue to advocate for him until he takes over on his own. Oh wait; he is already doing that daily! Guess I was hoping it would be later but that isn’t Tait. He is already pushing us to let go and we are, even though as a parent it is hard to do so. What have we been advocating for him? Inclusion in school and in the community, that he be respected and appreciated for who he is and his abilities, and that he not be pigeon holed into the “Down syndrome box” of what people “think” he should be.
As he has grown, and as I have met parents with children and adults with cross-disabilities, I have quickly learned that the rights I advocate for Tait are the same rights that other parents want for their children. It isn’t just about our kiddos with Down syndrome who struggle to be included in schools and in the community, and treated with respect as individuals. It is about all families across the arc of disabilities fighting for those same rights and protections from discrimination. There may be times when certain legislation is related to an individual disability, such as the Combating Autism Act. However, in the bigger picture, the rights that we are advocating for in the community and in legislation are the same rights that will help and protect people across disabilities.
My hope by writing this is that parents across the country will not only celebrate their children and adults with Down syndrome, but that they will celebrate all individuals with amazing abilities. That when you are advocating for their rights you remember you are advocating for all the other children and adults with disabilities. That in the end we are fighting for the rights of all persons who don’t have a voice.