Madonna Dries Christensen
October is Down Syndrome awareness month. With an economy of words, and two photos, here’s one view of enlightenment.
My 10-year-old granddaughter, Sarah, has Down syndrome. She’s a social butterfly; at school nearly everyone knows her by name. She’s loving, thoughtful, sympathetic, compassionate, and given to serious tears when she believes she has hurt someone’s feelings. It’s also apparent that Sarah is aware of other people’s specific needs.
Sarah’s seven-year-old brother, William, has autism. He sometimes socializes with his two sisters, but he’s easily distracted into doing something else. William is nonverbal and uses pictures to communicate. Although he loves school and riding the bus, a new classroom and other changes in routine cause stress. Carrying pictures of things he likes is comforting.
Sarah understands the comfort of familiar things. Her doll, Inga, accompanies her most everywhere except to school. One morning while William waited for the bus, Sarah drew a picture of some of his favorite things: A school bus, a stop sign, wheels, a shoe, and eyeglasses.
This simple drawing brought not only a moment of socialization between siblings, but William communicated recognition of the gift by touching Sarah’s arm.
Photos by Jill B.
[For information about Down syndrome, see www.ndss.org. To learn about autism, see www.autismspeaks.org