So, what do we know about Down syndrome?
Down syndrome. It used to be a heartbreaking diagnosis for any parent, but in 2008, the picture is not as grim as society once believed.
Years ago people receiving this diagnosis often felt that their hopes and dreams were shattered, today, the outlook is quite different. The future is wide open.
While a diagnosis of Down syndrome means the child may have a cognitive disability (usually in the mild to moderate range), with advances in medicine and education people are learning more and living better lives than anyone thought possible even just a few years ago.
Congenital heart defects that require surgery are experienced by less than half of all children born with Down syndrome and modern surgery has improved outcomes for these kids so much that most will go on to have a normal life expectancy.
In the past, few people with Down syndrome were able live independently—this is no longer the assumption. There have been so many advances in healthcare, education, assistive technology, accessibility of public life and increasing employment opportunities that many people with Down syndrome are living lives quite similar to their non-disabled peers, and there is no reason to believe improvements will not continue.
Advances in medicine and technology, increasingly individualized care options and active advocacy have combined to create a future of possibility for people with all disabilities—whether from birth or acquired through illness, injury or age.
Now let's see what Katie Couric has to say:
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Well folks, this would be an accurate picture of Down syndrome if this were 1968.
In 2008 this negative portrayal is appalling. This inaccurate story told by a grim-faced Katie Couric is unconscionable.
Also, I am not a Down syndrome parent. I am a parent. One of my children has Down syndrome. (Clearly the press needs many repititions to grasp respectful disability language--it's OK, I can accommodate that!)
I demand a re-write.
People with Down syndrome and their families deserve better.
[Edit: Several people have mentioned that they saw the piece on the news which included interviews with families, physicians and more and thought it was good. I agree with them. Then the person who wants to know more goes on line and finds this video where Katie Couric alone, intones grim, outdated portrayal. I do think re-writing of this piece is in order.]
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