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“He’s a little Down’s boy isn’t he?”

Posted Dec 30 2009 12:00am

Since we received the diagnosis that G would be born with Down’s syndrome one of the things I have feared most, to be completely honest, is the comments that would be made by complete strangers. I have read and heard some horrendous stories of strangers feeling the need to pass comment on the fact that a child has Down’s syndrome – offering the parent pity or unwelcome advice (or insults).

It took 15 months, but recently while out Christmas shopping I had my first experience of someone commenting on the fact that G has Down’s syndrome. Not just anyone, but the type of complete stranger I fear most: the kindly old lady (KOL).

I am used to be stopped by KOLs while out shopping since they are naturally attracted to babies/children and their favourite variety is one with ginger hair. They swarm around J’s “orange hair” (as he like’s to call it) like bees around honey.

Attracted as usual to J’s personal Belisha beacon this particular KOL quickly moved on to G and his lack of gingerness before surprising me by asking “he’s a little Down’s boy isn’t he?”

The question was so matter-of-fact that I could only respond in the same way. “Yes he is,” I replied.

The KOL told me all about the group of teenagers with Down’s syndrome that goes to her local swimming pool and “really enjoy themselves” (a bit random, a bit patronising but she meant well and I was still too disarmed by the fact that I was talking to a complete stranger about Down’s syndrome to do anything other than smile and nod).

“So he’ll have a few challenges when he’s older,” she continued, before adding something about how he didn’t seem too badly effected. I don’t really remember what I offered in response to that. Again her tone was so matter-of-fact that the comment seemed entirely reasonable thing to say.

So that was my first experience of discussing the fact that G has Down’s syndrome with a complete stranger in public. Something tells me it won’t be our last. Especially if we keep going shopping with J.

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