Tomorrow we will be wearing our crazy socks (and shoes) for World Down Syndrome Day to represent the joy that people who are a little bit different bring into our lives. This will be the third World Down Syndrome Day we've celebrated since having our son Benny, and I have to say that in his three short years he's already busted a lot of the stereotypes I had about trisomy 21.
One of the concerns that every parent has for their child is whether or not they will be able to have a career when they grow up. In America the unemployment statistics for people with developmental disabilities is unfortunately very high.
But Benny has already had his first paid job! When he was just two years old Benny landed a modeling gig with Target. He already has his very own bank account.
We had heard that it's rare for people with Down syndrome to be able to drive. This was something my husband was especially concerned about. Watching Benny drive his power wheels around we are pretty certain that he will be able to drive a real car around someday if he wants to.
Another worry has been whether or not Benny will be able to make and keep friends. So far he has proven to be very outgoing, and every day when I pick him up from school his friends say bye to him and give him hugs.
He has also made several friends outside of school who really enjoy his company. Although Benny has limited speech, he is very expressive and imaginative in his play. In most ways he is a pretty typical boy - he and his friends love to play with trains and cars and action figures.
He also loves to play with toy guns, and will pretend to shoot his friends, and very dramatically fall down after getting shot himself. Unfortunately this is starting to get him in trouble at school, so I'm working on redirecting this behavior, although I secretly love that he is such a little stuntman!
Recently we decided that it was time to talk to one of his friends about the fact that Benny has down syndrome.
Because his friend is only four we kept the information very simple, and just explained that Benny has special needs because he has Down syndrome, which means he was born with an extra chromosome. That this little difference means that sometimes it takes him longer to figure out how to do things, and sometimes it's harder for him to understand or communicate. His friend listened to our explanation, said "ok", and moved on to play with his train tracks.
The two have been playing together for over a year now and I had been nervous about how this conversation might go. I feel very lucky that this little boy has such a big, sweet heart that he completely accepted this new information about his friend, and has continued to ask to have playdates with Benny even after finding out about his Down syndrome.
This is the kind of response that I was hoping for, and that I wish everyone would have when they meet someone with Down syndrome. "It's just a little difference, no big deal, let's hang out!"
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Since becoming a mom to a little boy with Trisomy 21 I have written a lot about Down syndrome and disabilities. I am a storyteller, wife and mom to a teen and a toddler. Life is busy!