March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day to promote awareness of individuals who have an extra 21st chromosome. I am the parent of two children who have Down syndrome and I wanted to use this day to recognize what an amazing place Missoula is for Jung (age 9) and Aidan (age 6).
Decades ago, children with Down syndrome were seldom included in the same activities as other children without disabilities. My children go to Paxson School with their older sister and kids from the neighborhood. They have friends; take ballet and swim lessons; share birthday celebrations; and participate in after-school activities—just like everyone else. As a parent, I am grateful for all of the people who accept that Jung and Aidan are just everyday little kids. I am thrilled that they have the opportunity to participate fully in community events. On so many occasions, I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of people who go out of their way to include my children.
Both Jung and Aidan have developmental challenges. They struggle with speech and learning new skills, but they also have unique strengths and talents. As they grow, both will have a lot to offer our community. In fact, they already have. There are a generation of children growing up who accept children of different abilities and who see individuals with Down syndrome as friends who are more alike than different.
I am so proud of my children and so grateful that they have the opportunity to grow up in a community that will nurture them. My children know they belong because we are surrounded by people who love and accept them. On behalf of my children—thank you!