I’ve seen a story circulating on Facebook recently about a couple with Down syndrome celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. It’s supposed to be a “feel good” story that sends the message “Down syndrome people – they’re just like us!”
You’ve probably seen these stories too. A girl with Down syndrome is crowned homecoming queen. A boy with Down syndrome got asked to prom. This cafe employs people with Down syndrome and pays them, like with actual money. These stories are all meant to make people feel good. I know lots of people who share these news stories on social media thinking it’s a positive thing, but I just see them and think “Look at how advanced our society is! We’re treating these genetic abnormalities like real people!”
These stories are not “feel-good” to me. It shouldn’t be newsworthy if someone like my son gets asked to prom. “Who’d ask one of those boys to prom? That sweet girl is so charitable. Let’s all, as a country, celebrate her courage to ask one of those kids to a school dance.” It shouldn’t be newsworthy that someone like my son finds someone to love and gets married. It shouldn’t be newsworthy if someone like my son gets a job – one where he makes *gasp* actual money.
I know that on some level it IS encouraging to see these stories. If you don’t know anyone with Down syndrome and have only seen people who were raised in a time where it was routine to ship them off to an “institution” to be raised, then you might not realize that they’re actual people just like everyone else. So yes, I’m glad that stories are making the rounds that show kids with Down syndrome can have the same life experiences of anyone else. New parents might like to see these “encouraging” examples about how their children will be “normal.” But let’s stop pretending that we’re being inclusive and supportive when we share these stories. Just think for a minute about how sad it really is that it’s considered newsworthy that a high school girl is on a basketball team.
I might be alone on this one. I know these stories are popular, and are shared by Down syndrome advocates as well. It just makes me sad that anyone would think my son is “special” for being just like everyone else.