A person’s facial features or physical appearance do not determine cognitive ability.
Once, while on my way out of Sam’s Club, an employee looked at Willow then looked at me and asked: “Downs isn’t it?”
I replied with a quick “yes.”
Sensing her pity, my instinct was to hightail it out of there. Unfortunately, this lady was the person who checks your receipt at the door…. and she was still holding mine!
Rather than check my purchases, she took it upon herself to check my daughter out. With a tilted head, she scanned my daughter from head to toe, then looked at me with puzzlement.
“Doesn’t look like she’s got a bad case of it. Thank God.”
Her words took me by surprise. I felt anger bubble up inside me. Everything in me wanted to yell at this woman….. but I didn’t. I just grabbed my receipt and walked out the door. No “thank you,” no smile, nothing.
I failed my daughter that day.
I’ve gone over that event many times in my mind. If only I could go back. If only I could have had the guts to say something….
I would have told that woman that Willow’s extra chromosome is an extraordinary blessing.
I would have told that woman that Willow’s appearance has nothing to do with her ability.
I would have told that woman that there is no such thing as a bad case of Down syndrome. It’s not like a cold or a case of the flu.
And since this woman mentioned God, I would have told her that she’s right… I should thank Him. But not for the reasons she mentioned.
I thank God that Willow is my daughter, for bringing joy to the world and for showing me difference is beautiful.
Everyone on this planet has a unique look. And, everyone has different abilities. Some learn quickly. Some don’t. Some are great at math, others, like myself, suck. But, I’m guessing you can’t tell that by my appearance.
People with Down syndrome are no different.
While Down syndrome can bring with it certain physical characteristics, like almond shaped eyes or a short stature, not every individual with an extra chromosome exhibits all of these. And some have more dominant features than others.
None of that affects cognitive ability. None. Just like my short height isn’t to blame for my inability to do math.
Math is just hard. That’s why I became a writer.