Monday, October 3, 2011

National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Today we welcome the insights of author Madonna Dries Christensen. Royalties from several of her books go to the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia.

No-Barriers Friendship 
Madonna Dries Christensen 

Photo Credit: Suzanne Garwood

You meet people who forget you.
You forget people you meet.
You meet people you can't forget.
Those are your friends.

        At the age of twenty-eight months, my granddaughter Sarah, laden with a pink backpack almost as big as she was, eagerly boarded the school bus to begin the early intervention program for children with developmental delays. She was in the class for two-year-olds, which merged for activities with three-to-five-year-olds. There, Sarah met Connor. They were immediately drawn to one another.
        Both children have Down syndrome. They now attend different public schools, integrated into regular classrooms; Sarah in Second Grade and Connor in Third. They each have many friends; typical children as well as those in their Special Ed classes. But for the most part, it’s Sarah and Connor—Connor and Sarah.
When together, they walk hand-in-hand. If they have a chance encounter, they both gasp with surprise and fall into a hug. Aim a camera at them and they smile and cuddle. If they haven’t seen each other for a while, they beg their mothers to schedule a play date. When parting, they cry and hug and wave goodbye until the other is out of sight.
        Mention Down syndrome in conversation and chances are someone will comment that people with DS are very loving. This is well-intentioned, perhaps compensation for not knowing what else to say. Many people with DS do indeed demonstrate a loving attitude and are extremely sociable, but they also experience the same wide range of emotions as anyone else. They are not always happy and they do not have identical personalities.
        Sarah has an easy smile and an infectious charm. She’s the unofficial goodwill ambassador at school; students and teachers greet her when she walks down the hall. Both she and Connor are polite and sweet to everyone, but neither is as affectionate to other playmates as they are to one another. Theirs is a special friendship and love.
        Sarah refers to Connor as, “My boy.” And he recently declared to her, “I love you. You’re a doll. Now, you love me!” 
        No one who knows this pair will be surprised if they one day announce their engagement. Short of that, they are soul mates. Best friends forever. 


  1. What a lovely post. It put a smile on my face and has already warmed my day.

  2. Ken: Thank you! Stories about Sarah always tend to put a smile on my face as well. Thank you for your support behind the scenes as well. (Ken has donated paintings for the DSANV.)

  3. Ken wrote a story for the book Toys Remembered (royalties go to DSANV).

  4. Auntie M: That's right, he has! Thanks for reminding me about that.

  5. Beautiful post Randi. Love the picture. They are so cute!


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