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Down syndrome in Russia

Posted Jan 27 2009 6:28pm

Last night, Aiden and I attended our local Down sydrome support group meeting. I was tickled that I remembered how to get there, as it has been so long since we have gotten to go. With other meetings and illness, sometimes it isn't possible.

Anyhow, I digress. Back to the subject at hand. The key speaker for the night is a volunteer at Aiden's school. Frank is there every day to make sure that things are working properly and to receive hugs that the children shower upon him.

A little background on Frank...

Frank worked for British Petroleum, or BP. And he worked long hours that wasn't on a set schedule. One day, his friend was talking about doing missionary work in Russia. Frank thought this sounded like fun. And was asked to attend. Without asking his wife, he said "Yes". Frank had tried and tried to do volunteer work for churches, but due to not being able to give set times when he could volunteer, he never had the chance.

On one missionary trip to Russia, Frank was asked to step out of the room to speak to a woman. When he stepped out, there was a woman waiting there with her son, a child with Down syndrome. And she asked for help for her son. Frank, being an American, HAD to know something about Down syndrome. At this time, Frank didn't know ANYTHING about children with Down syndrome.

But he did know about the Little Light House, a school for special needs children in Tulsa. So, Frank returned home and went to the LLH. On a rare occassion, Marcia Mitchell, the founder of the LLH, was there. He explained the situation to Marcia and asked what he could do to help this woman and her son.

Children who have Down syndrome in Russia are not, sadly, treated as people. They do not have the right to attend school, as the belief is that children with Down syndrome are "unteachable". They do not have the right to obtain medical treatment. In fact, of all the millions of people in Russia, there are only 3 doctors who will treat a person with Down syndrome. People with Down syndrome are laughed at, not snickered at, but literally LAUGHED at in the streets. Many parents will only take their children outside after dark to avoid the ridicule. (Is your head spinning yet?)

Many children with Down syndrome are placed in orphanages left to die. Mothers give up their children for fear that their husbands will leave them and they will be without a place to live.

Frank returned to Russia with the needed supplies and information to help this mother and her son. He also began a school 400 miles from Moscow, in Voronezh for chldren with Down syndrome. The school is called Up with Down Center. Through this school, children and adults with Down syndrome are taught.

Frank told us about this little boy, who now 13 years later, is a gymnast. He received 8 gold medals in China. In competitions in Russia, this boy has never recieved a medal, because he has Down syndrome.

I am glad that I live somewhere that people with Down syndrome are becoming accepted. However it saddens me to think that 60 years ago, Aiden would have been treated the same way.

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