As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, I’ve been lucky enough to have supportive, understanding, and positive friends and family.
Then there’s everyone else.
Most people don’t mean to be hurtful or ignorant. When confronted with a friend telling you, “Hey, my baby has been diagnosed with Down syndrome,” your mind goes blank. What do you say that’s appropriate? Too many people just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind without stopping and thinking about what they’re saying.
The excuse is that they just don’t know what to say. They don’t understand why apologizing can be insulting. They think saying that people with Down syndrome are happy all the time is reassuring. There’s an endless parade of ignorance, and it makes us cringe every time. And there are six things in particular that Down syndrome parents wish you would just stop saying.
6. God gives special children to special parents.
This is supposed to be a compliment, right? It’s not. It’s actually pretty annoying. And it’s a two-fold insult.
First, you reinforce the idea that people with Down syndrome are a bigger burden than other children. This is obvious, because if you didn’t see them that way, then clearly you wouldn’t think they need extraordinary parents. There is this idea out there that only some people can handle having a child with Down syndrome, while for most people, it’s just too hard.
Would you take kindly to hearing in a roundabout way that your kid is such a pain that only a certain kind of person can handle him?
Second, we aren’t “special” parents. We’re people who received a child with Down syndrome and we still love and raise them like our other children. Would you tell a parent whose child suffers from cancer that God gave them this burden because they’re special parents that He knew could handle it? Probably not. There are any number of difficulties and issues that can pop up during the raising of a child, and it doesn’t take a “special” person to handle any of them. All raising a child with Down syndrome requires is unconditional love. That’s something all parents must possess, right?
So stop sanctifying us. We’re just like you.