October is my favorite month of the year for many reasons; Halloween, pumpkin flavored everything, football, apples and cider, a chill in the air, turning leaves, hay rides, scary movies, footie pj’s, and tights. So here it is, October 1st, and I’m enduring an internal debate. I’m exhausting myself (as per usual).
This month highlights awareness campaigns for Down syndrome (DS), domestic violence (DV), & breast cancer. These 3 are big in my world and 2 of them have had great success in making us aware. Thanks to recent news surrounding the NFL, DV is finally starting to get the attention needed for real change. I pray the world doesn’t get bored and move on.
As I think about how I want to honor DS I can’t stop wondering, “what is normal?” What does it mean to be low or high functioning? What does a typical family or typical existence look like and how is that so different from my own? Disability is normal. It is a part of the human experience whether it happens prior to birth or later. Whether it is 'cured' or managed.
Everyone has challenges. Everyone. Sometimes they are financial. Marriages fall apart. Families are blended. Single parents do the work of a village. People lose jobs or get diseases. Those living with mental illness are stigmatized and are failed by a broken system. Our LGBT community still fights for fairness within the law and for the right to walk down the street without being brutally assaulted or shunned by our families. Addictions and sexual assault are commonplace. Sometimes through accidents or illnesses our loved ones pass away too soon all the while we continue to get older every day. Which of these are abnormal?
Awareness campaigns come from a wonderful place. When you are aware that early detection can increase your chances of surviving breast cancer, you’re more likely to feel your boobs and see your doctor. When as a society we begin to hold abusers and sexual assaulters accountable for their actions, survivors will be more likely to seek help and hopefully violence will lessen. When we tell you that language has power, those with compassion choose words that don’t demean. The invisibility of Autism dissolves as others comprehend public meltdowns. As we continue to demand equality, our kids with special needs will receive the supports and services they need to thrive in school and in the community throughout their lives.
Those of us involved with Down syndrome awareness open our lives to the world. We let you into our private spaces to witness the gold, the shit, and the mundane so that we are no longer outliers, invisible pariahs and therefore irrelevant or scary. We strive to create a society where normal means acceptance, inclusion, equality. In doing so we support others facing similar challenges. We aim to make the world a safer place and I know we have.
And yet I’m restless. I’m beyond awareness. I want revolution and I want normalcy. My life’s work is to battle loud and fierce regarding; housing and program wait lists, budget cuts for education, supports, and services, funding and access to disease cures, legalizing medication that is long overdue, rights for all regardless of ethnicity, genitalia, religion, or who we love. I dream of a time when all of us are normal, where knowledge and understanding are so commonplace that what currently makes us outsiders will be nothing more than attributes to describe our existence to one another.