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Down Syndrome Today

            A family member of Down syndrome individual told me the only way to truly understand is by interacting. The exchanges could be with individual themselves or with their family and friends, but until you have someone right there, you will never truly understand. Seeing a person with Down syndrome brings about different feelings in everyone. A feeling of sorrow and pity are usually the initial reaction towards the person and their family, this however, is a mistake. People with DS are humans just like the rest of us, who deserve no more pity than a person of different race or gender. Throughout my research and interactions with DS individuals and family members I have come to realize this to be true. Douglas Biklen of Syracuse University as quoted in Kliewer (1998) “… I came across a quotation on a pamphlet published by a self-advocacy group in Melbourne, Australia, that read, ‘Don’t think we don’t think.’” This quote made a connection with me. It stands out saying ‘do not presume we are incapable of thought even if not at the level of other people’. In my philosophical studies I have derived a definition of being human as someone who has the ability to think; if individuals with Down syndrome can think, then they are human, and deserve to be treated as such. As is the case with many people, some things can be so obvious that you miss them completely.
             As with all types of disability groups and minorities, there has been an enormous amount of headroom made for students with Down syndrome. There have been various changes since the institutionalizations of all individuals with Down syndrome; laws have been passed to ensure equality, new methods of assessment and accommodation, and a large support system for people with DS, their families, and their friends. Quality educational programs, along with a stimulating home environment and good medical care enable people with Down syndrome to become contributing members of their families and communities.