Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Advocacy #6: MAKE IT STOP!

The R word.

I mean, seriously.

It’s 2015.

Don’t say it.  Don’t avoid calling others out on it when they say it.

There are people who will try to make you feel really bad about telling them to stop using the R word.  They will tell you that you are too sensitive and they mean nothing by it and that people these days need to “lighten up.”

Be tough. Be strong.  Be brave.

Keep fighting.

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Advocacy #3: Give us a smile

con·spic·u·ous

kənˈspikyo͞oəs/

adjective

1. standing out so as to be clearly visible.

2. attracting notice or attention.

synonyms: easily seen, clear, visible, noticeable, discernible, perceptible, detectable; person with Down syndrome

^

That’s reality right now.  Not that everyone in the room notices us, but that everyone in the room who does notice us can see that we are different.

We have run the gamut of responses to Down syndrome (remember this guy??).  Not all responses are negative.  Most, in fact, are quite benign, even a little sweet.  And they bring me to another little way that you can advocate for people with Down syndrome: smile.

Smile at everyone you meet on the street.  Good or bad, rich or poor, sick, healthy, clean, dirty, happy or sad.  A smile says “Hey, I see you, human being.”  I’m not saying you should fawn over every individual that crosses your path, nor should you go out of your way to grin awkwardly at someone who is different.  I’m saying that it is pretty cool if you let your eyes meet someone else’s (anyone else’sand allow yourself to smile.  And though you may think it far-fetched, it’s advocacy at its finest.

You see, when you share a smile with the differently-abled, the marginalized, those on the outskirts, it’s not really about them, it’s about the others in the room.  It’s about showing the world that it’s cool to be cool with everyone.  When you treat everyone who looks a little different with the same dignity and respect as you would that nice-looking, decently dressed human being walking toward you in the grocery store, it sends a message.

We are all humans.  Advocate for the humans by smiling kindly at the humans.  You can’t go wrong with that.

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Brain Power

John said he wanted me to write something today… that he had checked the blog and was disappointed that I hadn’t posted in a couple of days.  It’s a push that I needed.  Truthfully, I have had this post rolling around in my brain for some time, but I have feared sitting down to write it.  This isn’t pretty.

You see, I’m a smart person.  I earned really good grades in high school and college, high test scores, all that jazz.  I have a Master’s degree that I worked really hard at.  I’ve always valued and appreciated the kind of intelligence that gets measured in schools.  A lot.   And now, I’m in trouble for it.

How often are others disregarded or disrespected because of a lack of intelligence?? And now, it’s making my brain spin.  It’s uncomfortable.  More than uncomfortable… it makes me hurt.

I’m not going to put Tessa into a box, but statistically, we can guess that school will be a struggle for her.  We can guess that she might not take Honors-level courses.  She probably won’t study law or medicine.  I won’t say never, but statistically, you know…

Sometimes, people in the world are going to have a hard time valuing her and her contributions because somehow, we’re living in a society that is really impressed by how “smart” a person is.  And rather than loving on someone who needs more help, we berate them.  We make or read and laugh at terrible internet memes about them – not always people with special needs, but people who do silly things or people who talk or act differently than what we have deemed “the norm.”  We put those people at the end of our jokes.  We don’t use the “r-word,” but we mock stupidity, burger-flipping, garbage-collecting.  We say things like “let’s face it, not all kids are going to college” or “he’s not the brightest crayon in the box” or “someone has to make my fries.”  In the worst of scenarios, we don’t even allow them to live.

All those comments are now personal.  They all sting.

Someday, someone will say something like that about my little girl.

I’m trying not to be overly sensitive.  I’m really pretty good at letting things roll off my shoulders.  I see a lot of value in all the different ways that people contribute to our society and I know that others do, too.  I know that a lot of people will really love my daughter and value and appreciate her while still making jokes about these things.  They aren’t bad people at all.

We just need more love, encouragement, support, kindness, compassion.

I’m working on it.

 

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