May 27, 2011
Re-defining Down Syndrome
A week or two ago Sheena (Hannah's friend and dance instructor) asked permission to write a post about Hannah. Of course I was pleased; I was also curious.
I was almost expecting something about how Hannah was a "joy"--something a bit fluffy and superficial. I've had years of people telling me how sweet/happy/adorable she is. Everyone enjoys hearing nice things about their child; I am no different. But frequently I hear a twinge of condescension in their voices. stereotyping. The old, "Those Down syndrome people are SO happy." line is not only old, but also inaccurate.
Am I jaded?
My teen-aged person with Down syndrome is concrete, irritable, enthusiastic, crabby, obstinate, feisty, effervescent, exasperating, lovable, temperamental, funny, true, annoying, imaginative, entertaining, and 100% lovable.
Pretty much the same as everyone else with 46 chromosomes.
I know Sheena "gets" Hannah. I knew she'd have something valuable to share about her friendship/mentor-ship with Hannah. I wasn't really worried about Sheena writing platitudes of sweetness, milk and honey.
My baggage of preconceived ideas of how people see Hannah shouldn't come into play. Really, I'm just doing the same thing that they do. If the worst pet peeve I've got regarding Down syndrome is society's inaccurate image of "happy people", then I ought to just be quiet about it. It's just a slight annoyance, not a horrific problem.
(BTW, I think the worst thing society does is have low expectations.)
Anyway, back to Sheena. She wrote her blog post. And it's interesting and amazing.
I cannot thank her enough for just thrusting Hannah into her dance class. It seems to me that she orchestrated the best possible classroom environment possible--a variety of open-minded peers, incremental teaching, patience, high expectations, encouraging instruction. And, I assumed, some sort of modified choreography. But I learned from Sheena's blog that she didn't change a thing for Hannah.
Sheena's post isn't so much about what she has done for Hannah. In fact, it's about what Hannah has done for Sheena. That was what surprised me.
It reminds me of when Hannah was a baby, how I discovered that Hannah is a great teacher. She led the way through all the murky medical and emotional waters we navigated. I've sort of forgotten how much she's taught me, after all, I do fancy myself a teacher.
Make a visit to Sheena's blog. See what she's got to say about Down syndrome defining someone's capabilities.