Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Special Scout is Born

When my wife was pregnant with her first, we were overjoyed. And so it was quite a shock to us when the doctor told us that preliminary tests indicated our baby might have a genetic defect. Up to that point I had never given it much thought. We asked the doctor what the next steps were. He indicated that we could have another, more accurate test done. OK, then what? Then we could decide to "terminate".

My wife and I talked it over, and given that "termination" was not an option, we saw no reason to have any more testing done. We worried for a while. It turned out that our son was "normal", and we were relived, but it always left me with the nagging thought that of the 90% of Down Syndrome children who are killed before they see the light of day, maybe some of them were "false positives" on the test. I doubt many people who abort have the fetal remains tested and check the results. I doubt many doctors would suggest it, since it would expose them to a potential lawsuit.

Fast forward to the present. I have sons in Boy Scouts. In our troop there is a boy with Down Syndrome. He has made me realize that the reluctance I had (and the world has) to face these people and welcome them is just completely wrong. Although he can't do all of the things the other kids can do, he is a warm loving caring perfectly wonderful human being, and a great asset to our troop. I can't imagine it without him.

Far from teasing him or getting frustrated with him, the other boys respect him and stand up for him. They watch out for him, and make sure he is included in everything. So last week, not only did we win the football game, but the boys made sure he got a chance to score. At Summer camp last year he was sick and had to be hospitalized. The boys visited him religiously, and brought him toys and games. And when he got out of the hospital and came to a troop meeting, he got a standing ovation. He was too weak to stand much that night, so he sat in a chair and the other boys carried him and the chair around all night so he could be in the middle of all the activities.

They don't do this because we tell them to (we don't), or because they pity him (they don't), but because they love him. That's not to say he is a perfect scout, or a perfect person, but he has changed the way I look at the "disabled" for the better. On this World Down Syndrome Day I just wanted to say "thanks."

[N.B. The title of this post is a riff on the book A Special Mother is Born by Letitcia Velasquez. If you are interested in learning more, or helping people with Down Syndrome, check out the Jerome Lejeune Foundation or Reece's Rainbow.]


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