Friday, July 20, 2012

Getting the facts STRAIGHT!!

Naturally, I want to learn as much as I possibly can about Down syndrome.  I have to.  The internet is great, most of the time.  You can type in any topic from A to Z and have about a million choices of information to choose from.  It's great, most of the time.

I bought a few "text" books so that I could read up on the most current information pertaining to Down syndrome.  The reading is a little dry, and down right terrifying, so I put those books on the shelf.  I'll refer to them when needed, and only when needed.  As I go about my day, I may Google a burning question or two.  For instance, today, I ran a search for information about the use of animals and pets as part of therapy for kids with special needs.  Specifically, I was hoping to find information about cats.

Nala, in the stroller with Sam,
snuggling in with her bud.

We have this cat named Nala, she's Ella's cat technically, but beloved by the whole family.  She is the most tolerant, mellow cat I've ever known.  The kids can hold her in the cradle hold and pretend to feed her like a baby, and then throw her up over their shoulder, to burp her.  This cat loves Sam.  It's strange how much this cat loves him.  She will crawl up into the stroller with him and snuggle into him and fall asleep.  When I sit on the deck to let Sam get some fresh air, Nala comes over and stands on my lap too and nuzzles his cheek with her nose.  I have a friend who has two daughters with special needs, and she swears animals know when a child has special needs, and they pay special attention to those kids.

Back to my search.....I can't find information specifically about cats in therapy yet, but I do find information about horses and dogs.  Well, we've had enough bad luck with dogs for me to confidently say there's no way in hell I'm getting Sam a dog anytime soon.  And Kevin has, more than once, said he'd rather have his kids on drugs than on the back of a horse, so that's out too.  So, I guess it's back to cats.  Sam is getting his very own kitty next week - her name is Gems.  G for Grace, E for Ella, M for Marie and S for Sam.  She's the sweetest cutest thing ever!

But while I was searching for the information I needed, I came across untrue things relating to Down syndrome.  There are a million and one sites that have "the basics", like diagnosis, symptoms and the like.  On one I came across, it stated "parents of children with Down syndrome are more likely to have another child with Down syndrome if they should choose to have more children." This statement is FALSE!  Yes, in some cases this is true, but not in all.  Sam has nondisjunction Trisomy 21, which happened randomly as his cells divided after conception.  In translocation Trisomy 21, the extra chromosome is the result of one of the parents genetic information.  In that type of Down syndrome, the chance of having another child with Down syndrome is much higher, but for us, the chances are no greater than they were when Sam was conceived.

So what is truth and what is myth?

Myth: Down syndrome is rare.
Truth:  It's not rare at all, there are approximately 400,000 Americans living with Down syndrome as you read this.  It happens in every country around the world, and it happens to every race, every religion and every economic class.

Myth: People with Down syndrome don't live very long.
Truth:  With the advancement of medical care, people with Down syndrome commonly live well into their 50's and beyond.  It's true that in the past, the life expectancy for people with Down syndrome was very short, but that is no longer true.

Sam, with me...his "young" mom.
Myth: Only "old" women have babies with Down syndrome.
Truth: While it's true that there is an increased risk for Down syndrome as a mother ages, young women have babies with Down syndrome as well.  I was only 30 when Sam was conceived, and I met a woman last week who was only 19 when she delivered her daughter with Down syndrome.

Myth:  People with Down syndrome are "severely retarded".
Truth: Most people with Down syndrome only experience mild to moderate intellectual disability, and with loving homes and early intervention programs, most people with Down syndrome go on to lead a productive and fulfilling life.  Instead of viewing them as a person with a disability - let's call it a differentability.

Myth:  People with Down syndrome can't work.
Truth:  People with Down syndrome can indeed work, in fact they are more likely to do their job happily and enthusiastically than you are.

Myth:  People with Down syndrome are always happy.
Truth:  Yes, it might seem that way, but in fact people with Down syndrome experience the same emotions that you and I do.  They are capable of being hurt, upset, angry and unhappy.

You can do your internet search to find even more truths and myths regarding Down syndrome.  I'm only at the beginning of this amazing journey, and I've learned some facts straight from Sam himself.  You don't always needs books and surveys to tell you the greatest of life's truths.

Fact:  Sam wakes up every morning with a smile.
Fact:  Sam lights up when his sisters walk in the room.
Fact:  Sam brings joy not only to our family but to everyone around him.
Fact:  Sam is the cutest darn little boy I've ever met.
Fact:  Sam is smart and strong and active and healthy.
Fact:  Sam is loved.
Fact:  Sam has taught me to stop and find beauty in all things and to stop sweating the small stuff.
Fact:  Sam is an inspiration to me, to Kevin, to his sisters and our whole family.
Fact:  You can't wait to hug him.

Sam and Grandpa

Please, learn and share the facts about Down syndrome.  With everyone's help, acceptance will grow in everyone's heart.

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