Thank you for visiting Thin Places. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blogs you may also enjoy: Simple Life Happy Reading!!!
… I think language makes a difference. This isn’t something we’d ever thought of before Penny was born, but we quickly came to see a big difference between seeing Penny as our “special needs daughter” or “Down syndrome daughter” and seeing her as “our daughter with special needs”. 95% of the time that people with special needs are referred to–by friends and family, by the media, by other families with children with special needs, you name it–the formula is, as it was in the announcement, “special needs children”. It’s not used intentionally but it does place the diagnosis, if there is one, ahead of the person. In our experience, it perpetuates the tendency to then see the special need first, rather than the human. Although there are some other examples of where this happens in society, people with special needs receive this kind of unintentional-but-powerful categorizing more than anyone else.
The ramifications of moving the human first are, in our experience, incredibly important, both within the church and outside of it. It helps, over time, to undo some of the very unhelpful stereotyping out of which most of us (and I do include myself in this) think about and act towards people who are different from the majority–in this case different in their physical or cognitive ability (and even the degree to which people are actually “disabled” is increasingly up for question–simple procedures that close previously debilitating heart conditions, the average lifespan of people with Down syndrome increasing from 30 to 55/60 over since around the 1970s, and the average IQ of people with Down syndrome increasing from something like 20-40 to 60-80 over the same time) . Making the move to “our daughter with Down Syndrome” has helped us, we hope, to allow Penny to be Penny–to be the child and adult God wants her to be–rather than to see her first through the lens of Down syndrome and what we ought to expect from that.