A young mom and a child walked into the principal’s office, awaiting his verdict of whether the possibility of education was possible, at all.
“I’m sorry, we don’t take in children who are crazy“.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” The mother cried. She took her child’s hand and walked off, teary-eyed at what transpired.
That child is my brother, and that woman is my mother. His name is Kevin, and he has Down syndrome.
“Mom, why are they looking at me?”
Sometimes we’d be out in public, sitting at a restaurant, where children would point at Kevin and adults would stare at him. They don’t care that their direct eye contact is making him feel uncomfortable.
Anyone would. Can you imagine what the receiving end would feel like, being stared at with narrowed, suspicious eyes?
One day Kevin asked me “Why are they looking at me?” To which I replied, “It’s because you’re so handsome, of course!”
That answer was enough to make him happy in the moment, it was never enough to stop those eyes darting to him wherever we went.
People who found next to him would shift uncomfortably in their seats. Growing up, he would be labelled a monster by the other kids on the playground.
But he has never let it affect him. Kevin knows he is different, he knows he has Down syndrome. He doesn’t need to be reminded of it every day.
Everything changes when someone smiles at Kevin. In fact, he loves interacting with people. When they smile, he never shies away and smiles right back!
People with Down syndrome are the purest, most kind-hearted people I’ve ever known
One time, I had a terrible fight with my dad. Voices were raised. I stormed off, slamming the door behind me, fuming.
A few moments later, Kevin came in, armed with a single piece of tissue in his hands. He sat next to me. “Jessy, are you ok?”
In that moment, all I could do was lean on his shoulders and weep my heart out.
He couldn’t understand what I was going through, but his mere presence and silence was the most comfort I ever needed.
He is so quick to forgive too.
I remember having made him angry, but when I apologized, there was an immediate cheeky smile, as he shook my hand, like they do when friends made up again.
Kevin is always so full of joy, and ever ready to share his things, be it his toys, clothes, even his pocket money.
If there was one thing he craved more than anything else, it was friendship. Even though I had many friends, Kevin never had any. After school ended, he had no one to call him out to hang out, or to play sports.
That’s why my friends will always be his. That’s why his happiness will always be my priority.
It’s not difficult to interact with Kevin
[Playing a game of Jenga with Kevin.]
Most people are afraid of Down syndrome kids because they don’t know how to act around them. But there are simple and easy steps to learn.
For example, let’s say you’re asking Kevin a question. Sometimes he doesn’t respond right away, because he needs time to comprehend your question, or he is just shy.
With Kevin, most of the time, he will not look at you immediately when you call for him. Don’t feel disheartened or ignored; just ask him something twice after a certain period of time.
There are many types of people on the Down syndrome spectrum. These range from those who can speak fluently, to those who can’t.
Each child with Down syndrome is unique in their personality, and they don’t all show the same signs or behaviour. It’s important to treat each new person you meet with Down syndrome as an individual, not as a representative of a monolith.
“What do I say to someone after finding out they have a family member with Down syndrome?”
You can ask anything, but don’t express your sympathies by saying “I’m so sorry to hear that.” Having Down syndrome is not a disease, nor can it be ‘fixed’. We don’t feel bad about it, and neither should you.
Teaching Kevin something for the first time takes time, but once he gets used to it, he is fully capable of doing it on his own.
His life revolves around routine and predictability, not a fast-paced environment. Sudden changes to his environment are stressful for him.
Our relationship is just like that of every other sibling. He storms into my room when I sleep in, gets me to rise early, and reminds me to take a shower.
He knows I’m afraid of cockroaches and spiders, so he plays pranks on me to get me scared.
When I was younger and did not understand, I always prayed for Kevin to get better when he grew up.
But now I realized that he was born perfect. He doesn’t need to “get better.” Rather, it is the rest of the world that needs healing and understanding.