The first moment I laid eyes on him, I knew. My first words were, “Does he have Down syndrome?” The look is distinctive. There was no mistaking it. A blood test a few days later confirmed what I knew from the very first moment. He had an extra copy of the 21st chromosome.
In those first days, I looked at him and I saw Down syndrome. I read one time–many years ago–that a common feature of DS is that they look “more like each other than they look like their own family.” That hurt a little bit. I didn’t want people to look at him and have Down syndrome as their first thought. I wanted them to see him as a person first. It isn’t really possible, I think. To be honest, it took me a while. Now, sometimes, I am surprised when I notice it. He just looks like…..Dominic. Most of the time.
I see his strengths and his accomplishments. I see him through the eyes of a parent who loves him. But….I also have a separate set of eyes. My “professional eyes” see the gaps just as well as they see the milestones he has met (and missed) in due time. I know sometimes that when I am proud of all the he CAN do, others look at him and they see Down syndrome first, and they look again and they see what he can’t (yet) do.
That used to bother me. A lot.
But my perspective is changing. I love that people see that Dominic has Down syndrome because I know that he is changing HOW people see Down syndrome. As Dominic grows and learns and accomplishes and loves, he is changing how people perceive his abilities.
And I love that.