Thursday, April 16, 2009

Trying to remember . . .

. . . what my impressions of Down syndrome were before I had Finn. Whatever I thought or knew about it seems very vague now. I knew that certain health problems, especially heart problems, were common with Ds. I guess I knew on some vague level that people with Ds are intellectually impaired, but honestly, "Down syndrome" and "retarded" were never synonymous in my mind - I just never made that connection. I don't think I even had any stereotypes in my mind. I wasn't introduced to stereotypes about Ds until Finn was born. I have a vague memory of the first time I noticed seeing someone with Ds when I was a kid and my mother using the term "mongoloid." I don't think she meant anything nasty by it, I think that was just the accepted term in her generation. I never, ever had any direct interactions with anybody with Ds before Finn was born - and truth be told, he's still the only person with Ds I've had any direct interactions with to this day . . . which, in a way, makes me a little sad. I mean, really, if my own baby is the only experience with Ds I've ever had, how true a picture do I really have of Ds? (I feel like I'm missing something, I guess.) Only a couple years ago, a mom I knew would come and watch my little ones two mornings a week while I ran errands and stuff, and she had a daughter with Ds. But I never had any interactions with her. I was around her a couple of times, but in all honesty, I felt uncomfortable around her and kept my distance. I didn't know how to communicate with her. And until I knew that mom (we have since lost touch), I didn't even know that it is common for kids with Ds to have developmental delays. I remember her telling me that her daughter (who was 8 at the time) didn't walk until she was 2 or 3, and just being very surprised about that because it wasn't something I knew.

Do you know that I never knew that people make jokes about the "short bus" until just recently? I mean, like in the last couple of months. I never knew that the "short bus" was the bus for disabled children. Of course I've seen those smaller school buses my whole life, but I never gave them a second thought and never knew they were special buses for "special" kids.

It feels like I've been living in the dark. And in a lot of ways I feel like I'm still in the dark.


Karly said...

You know, when discussions have come up about the use of the word retarded in a derogatory sense, quite a few people have said to me that they had never considered people with Ds to be retarded. I am always so surprised by that, as I guess I just always knew it to be the case. I never know whether to be happy that maybe there are not as many preconceived ideas about people with Ds and my daughter will be given a fair chance to show how wonderful she is...or whether to be sad because maybe people with Ds are just overlooked entirely and not considered at all.

Just something I think about.

Mindy said...

I never knew about the short bus either. I RODE the short bus in elementary school. Where I'm from, the short bus is used for kids who live out in the country since big buses can't handle all the hills and curvy roads.

Where we live now (a big suburb of Cincinnati), there are no short buses either. Everyone rides the big buses.

Chrystal said...

As soon as Malea was diagnosed, I ran through my mind of all the people I'd ever interacted with that had Ds. There were quite a few, even though I didn't realize it at first. And then I felt bad because I didn't treat those people how I would want my daughter to be treated. Not mean really, but not nice either.

I grew up with the short bus jokes. And the word "special." See, that one is harder for me. People now know not to use the R word around me, but the sarcastic use of "special" is going to be much harder to fight.

Example: "I can't believe he did that! He's so special."

Same idea, different word.