What the world can learn from people with Down syndrome

Blogger Kelle Hampton recently shared a moving observation about what the world can learn from individuals with Down syndrome. Hampton’s nine-year-old daughter, Nella, has Down syndrome. In her 2012 memoir, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, Hampton shared the experience of discovering Nella had Down syndrome after her birth and the range of emotions and challenges that can come with having a child with disabilities.

Through a popular blog and social media accounts, Hampton has continued to share her experience of raising a child with Down syndrome. Recently, on her Instagram account, Hampton wrote:

The struggle for self-acceptance in our culture and its distorted definition of beauty has created epidemics of depression, eating disorders and the never-ending quest for perfection for so many girls and women.
Did you know that a 2011 study surveyed individuals ages 12 and older with Down syndrome, analyzing their self-perceptions… and 96 percent liked the way they look? 99 percent said they were happy with their lives, and 97 percent liked who they are.

The study to which Hampton refers is by Harvard-trained doctor and researcher Brian Skotko. The research, published under the title Self-Perceptions from People With Down Syndrome, surveyed people over the age of 12 who have Down syndrome and asked them questions about their self-perception, life satisfaction, and experience of having Down syndrome. In addition to the results Hampton includes in her post, Skotko’s survey found that 86 percent of respondents said making friends was easy, 85 percent felt they helped other people, 99 percent loved their families, and 97 percent liked their siblings.

Hampton continued her post asking, “How amazing would it be if the entire population of women someday valued themselves the way that people with Down syndrome do? How incredible would it be to someday read that 96 percent of teenage girls look in the mirror and like what they see?” This is not news to some people in the Down syndrome community. Skotko’s survey included an open-ended question about advice for parents who discover their child has Down syndrome. The responses included, “If everyone was as happy as me, that would be great,” exactly what Hampton suggests.

Other respondents wrote, “It’s not so bad having Down syndrome”; “I am very happy in my life. I have friends who care about and love me”; “It’s okay to have special needs.” Many participants in Skotko’s survey offered assurance to parents of a child diagnosed with Down syndrome, with some writing: “Don’t be sad. We can all learn”; “Everything is going to be okay”; “Don’t be afraid. Your baby will have a wonderful life.”

Other research has found not only that people with Down syndrome report high levels of satisfaction and happiness with their lives, but their families also report happiness and satisfaction. For example, one study found that 88 percent of siblings reported feeling they were better people for having a sibling with Down syndrome, and parents with a child with Down syndrome had a lower divorce rate than the average for families with a child with another genetic disorder or typical child.

Despite the research and the many remarkable people currently living with Down syndrome, parents receiving a prenatal diagnosis are often met with inaccurate and incomplete information about what life with Down syndrome is. Many parents face pressure to end their child’s life in an abortion simply because of the disabilities that can be associated with Down syndrome.

Hampton’s observations about what the world can learn from people with Down syndrome reveal the absurd and deadly discrimination against children with Down syndrome. While abortion proponents claim not ending the life of a child with Down syndrome through abortion would be “immoral” because choosing Life would cause “suffering,” they ignore the immense joy and meaning of every individual human Life.

As another mother of a daughter with Down syndrome wrote about Hampton’s words, “When talking about people with Down syndrome, I think it’s time we stop saying ‘What’s wrong with them?’ and start asking, ‘What’s right with them?’”