Loving a Child with Down Syndrome

This child. Her name is Eurydice.

Eurydice. Courtesy Cristina Nehring. (c) 2012
Eurydice. Courtesy Cristina Nehring. (c) 2012

The following was written by her mom:

Leaving aside the question of whether one can measure happiness in coffee spoons and, more troublingly, compare the real happiness of an existing child to the potential happiness of a nonexisting child, it is a cliché of developmental psychology that kids with disabilities like Down syndrome often outstrip their peers in joie de vivre. Something about their trust, tenacity, and tenderness—as well as their often uninhibited engagement with other people—seems to equip them for lives that are not darker than the lives of sensitive intellectuals but brighter.

Cut to: Paris, fall 2012. I am sitting next to my cherry-lipped, porcelain-skinned daughter, now 4 years old. I step out of the medical transport van that has ferried us home from her preschool and heave her onto the sidewalk. She giggles and extends two fingers to stroke my cheek. Before the driver can pull away from the curb, I gather her against my heart, draw back a few inches, smile in wonder into her radiant smile, and kiss her face and hair and temples as holiday shoppers stop and stare.

There’s more…

My kid looks like John Franklin and is just as smart and outspoken. His father doesn’t have a very good opinion of Ms. Coulter.

The World of Special Olympics

The following is a guest post in the form of an open letter from Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter after this tweet during last night’s Presidential debate.

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow.  So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.  In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child…

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Uh-oh, Ritalin Is Not The Answer?

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I’ve been married to two women who had been diagnosed with A.D.D. One of them dealt with the symptoms by taking a small (prescribed) dosage of Ritalin. A couple of other members of my extended family have also relied on either Ritalin or Adderall over the years to better manage their focusing difficulties.

This from WebMD:

The symptoms of ADHD include inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. These are traits that most children display at some point or another. But to establish a diagnosis of ADHD, sometimes referred to as ADD, the symptoms should be inappropriate for the child’s age.

and also this:

Toddlers and preschoolers with ADHD tend to be constantly in motion, jumping on furniture, and having difficulty participating in sedentary group activities. For instance, they may have trouble listening to a story.

School-age children display similar behavior but with less frequency. They are unable to remain seated, squirm a lot, fidget, or talk excessively.

In today’s New York Times, L. Alan Sroufe professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, cautions about the practice of prescribing Ritalin and Adderall as a long-term solution to deal with A.D.D. in children and young adults in a sobering reassessment:

THREE million children in this country take drugs for problems in focusing. Toward the end of last year, many of their parents were deeply alarmed because there was a shortage of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall that they considered absolutely essential to their children’s functioning.

But are these drugs really helping children? Should we really keep expanding the number of prescriptions filled?

In 30 years there has been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs for attention-deficit disorder.

As a psychologist who has been studying the development of troubled children for more than 40 years, I believe we should be asking why we rely so heavily on these drugs.

My son has shown some of the same symptoms associated with A.D.D. He is too young to be formally diagnosed, since some of these are common to most young children. Until now, I feared that medication was the inevitable solution. Now, I’m not so sure. There may not be a magic cure. That may not be that bad.

The rest of the Times opinion piece is here.