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Down’s syndrome is awesome

Posted Aug 27 2009 12:27am

Adjective: awesome
1. Causing awe or terror; inspiring wonder or excitement.

As I was sat watching G feeding himself his lunch the other day I was suddenly struck by a realisation of how fascinating Down’s syndrome is. I’ve written before about the scientific genetics of Down’s syndrome, and I’ve also written a little about G and his development.

What occurred to me, thinking about these two aspects together, is how biologically fascinating Down’s syndrome is. Here’s this little boy sat in front of me and every single cell in his body is different from mine, and yet for the most part he is no different from me or any other human being.

He can sit up and feed himself; he is learning to communicate and can say Dada and Mama and also a variation on his brother’s name; he is close to crawling and standing with support. He’s maybe a little slower at some things than others, but isn’t everyone? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ignoring the negative effects of Down’s syndrome, but I do think it’s fascinating that they emerge in quirky little differences rather than great big ones.

He is fundamentally different from other babies, and yet fundamentally the same – and that is something that is not only difficult to express in words (I realise this post may not make much sense) but is also very hard to understand from the outside.

That explains why most people (me included) faced with a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome respond with terror and fear. It also explains why for most people faced with bringing up a child with Down’s syndrome, those feelings quickly turn to wonder and excitement.

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