Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Op-ed confronts myths about Down syndrome

Beverly Beckham wrote an op-ed in The Boston Globe March 2 to challenge the myths about children with Down syndrome that are so often presented in parenting and pregnancy books and in the news media.

She specifically takes on Sherman J. Silber, M.D., whose popular "How to Get Pregnant" book, has landed him on "Oprah," "Good Morning America," and National Public Radio. He claims that children with Down syndrome "are severely retarded mentally, and they usually die before their thirtieth birthday."

His statement is just plain wrong wrong, as many of us who know bright and engaging children and adults with Down syndrome have learned. In fact, many adults with Down syndrome live independently, attend college, hold jobs, etc.

Beckham explains the facts from the National Institutes of Health: "Most people with Down syndrome have IQs that fall in the mild to moderate range of retardation. Some are so mildly affected that they live independently and are gainfully employed."

Beckham talks about her charming and vibrant 4-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, who has Down syndrome and is a kind of "ambassador" to people who have never met someone with Down's.

"Efforts to change the way people think about kids with disabilities are slow going," Beckham says, "because there are not enough Lucys telling the world that they're OK. Lucy is not on 'Oprah.' Lucy is not an 'expert.' But the truth is that Lucy shows people that Down syndrome is not the end of the world."

And as you can see from Lucy's adorable picture above, she truly should be an ambassador and she should be "Oprah" as well.