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Down Syndrome and Marriage

Thumbnail image for wedding rings.jpg

Penny was six months old. I was reading Time Magazine, and
there was an article about Carolyn Bergeron and Sujeet Desai, two adults with
Down syndrome getting married. I frowned. For one thing, I didn’t like the idea of Penny, and people like
Penny, being so different that their marriages would make the national news.
But I also felt skeptical. Although they lived independently, Carrie and Suj
still relied upon their parents and aids to provide economic and practical
support. If they couldn’t cook for themselves, I wondered, was it really a


I showed the article to Peter without stating my
reservations. He finished reading with a wide smile.

“What did you think?” I asked.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. Penny was in the room with us. He
leaned over and said, “It would be an honor to walk you down the aisle.”

“But don’t you think there’s something a little strange?
It’s like being happy that two middle schoolers got married.”

He shook his head a little and said gently, “I don’t think
so. There’s a difference between intelligence and maturity. These two might not
be as intelligent as most of the 20-somethings we know, but that doesn’t mean
they aren’t mature enough to get married.”


His words have stayed with me. They’ve made me think about
my own intelligence and how I sometimes use it as a foil to hide immaturity.
They’ve made me think about my spiritual state–about how Jesus tells us to
“change and become like little children” (Matthew 18:3).
But the writer of Hebrews instructs us to become mature (Hebrews 5:13-14).
I wonder sometimes whether couples like Suj and Carrie can teach me about that
unusual but commendable combination of maturity and childlikeness (which, by the way, is not the same as being childish, and by which I do not at all mean to suggest that individuals with Down syndrome are perpetual children).


Last week, a friend sent a link to the trailer of Monica and
a documentary about another couple with Down syndrome who get married. This
time, I watched it with tears in my eyes, grateful that I can hope that one day
Peter will walk Penny down the aisle, and grateful, once again, for all I have
to learn and receive from people with gifts and abilities that are different
from my own. 

Comments read comments(14)
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Trey Shaver

posted July 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

Being the father of an 18 year old with Down Syndrome I have pondered the idea of him one day getting married. In his case I’m not sure it is an option but it is heartening to hear of stories like this and I agree with Peter that it is beautiful! Thanks for sharing! Trey, editor, Down Syndrome Today (

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Molly Andrews

posted July 19, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Thanks so much Amy Julia for this. I did watch the Monica and David video and think a story like theirs is so unknown to our society. Thank you for sharing it.

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Amy Julia Becker

posted July 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Trey, thanks for your comments. I’m glad my heart has changed over the years we’ve had Penny. And grateful for the whole spectrum of individuals with Down syndrome–married and single!

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posted July 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I am not a regular reader of your blog (I am Jewish, religious); I reached it as this article was on the Google Alert for “Down syndrome”. My daughter Ricki, who is almost 16, has Down s.
When Ricki was very young, I dreamed about if it would be possible for her one day to “walk down the aisle” (in our case, “stand under the chuppah”. My friends (who also had children with DS)thought I was CRAZY. But as a teenager, I roomed with a couple where the man had serious leasrning disabilities, and the wife had mild “retardation”. Her mother livedn about two blocks away, as did her married brother as well. And they always had someone “normal” renting a room. But, frankly, the only time she needed my help was when some wicked plumber left a terrible mess one day. She cooked, and they both worked. And they were happy. This experience of mine was what gave me hope that it is “Possible”.
Today as Ricki grows older, and she has developed a rather abraisive personality, I am a bit more hesitent. But I am not writing the possibility off. It is VERY imperitive to remember that teens and adults with intellectual disabilities are far from being children. They have the same wishes and desires as everyone else.

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Dianne Draganovic

posted July 22, 2010 at 6:38 am

That’s an honest piece and I appreciate that. I have a 5 yr old with DS. I’m hopeful that she develops a mature long lasting relationship and the other stories make me very happy for the young adults involved.
I liked your distinction re intelligence and maturity, and I think especially the maturity of commitment.
NIce post. Thankyou.

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Naomi Jacobs

posted July 23, 2010 at 9:06 am

Great to see a positive response to disability and marriage. I think our society has a big problem in terms of refusing to see disabled people (both developmentally and physically) as adults. That leads to major issues like the baby who was recently removed from her blind parents because of a misunderstanding of how disabled people can live independently (and a lack of support). The more that disabled people are seen living adult lives, the more positive our representation in society.

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Your Name Judie Hockel

posted August 4, 2010 at 5:01 pm

My daughter who has Down syndrome took vows forever last October with her handsome young man who also has Down syndrome. She was so happy when her dad agreed to give her away (“for free”). They are extremely happy. It’s complicated, and there have been some rather typical problems (she’s gained weight) but this is a marriage made in Heaven!

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a vatsyayan

posted November 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm

our son Neil 28 has Down syndrome I am always looking for some ways to find a match for him.just don’t know what to do. He works but there are not any girls at work.Please give me some direction.Thanks

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Amy Julia Becker

posted November 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

Since our daughter is only 4, I don’t have many resources for your son. At the same time, I would look into social activities within the community–perhaps a local Arc or Down syndrome society would have some social opportunities for him? You could also speak with a social worker? I’m sorry I can’t be of greater assistance.

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posted April 30, 2015 at 9:26 am

Please! Please! Please! If you have a child or sibling with Down Syndrome or any other developmental disability, please when they turn 18 apply for Guardianship or some legal method to protect your child or sibling incase they become married or can not advocate for themselves. Save yourself the nightmare of letting the state, their spouse or spouses family from having a say in the individuals healthcare, if they become unable to speak for themselves. I can not stress this enough!

Also, please look into special NYS OPWDD requirements for Health Care Proxy’s, yours may not be valid.…/information_f…/health_care_choices

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