Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Down's syndrome kids an inspiration

Kate Grant and mum Deirdre
Kate Grant and mum Deirdre

Editor's Viewpoint

In this newspaper today we carry the stories of three remarkable young people who were born with Down's syndrome. The youngest is doing well at her school, another has just won the lead in a BBC TV drama and the third is addressing the UN in Geneva to demonstrate the employability of people with her condition.

Theirs are truly astounding stories that all have one thing in common: when they were born, medical experts prepared their parents for the worst and indicated that they might never talk, walk or have a meaningful life.

It has to be borne in mind that medical professionals will often outline the worst-case scenario when talking about any condition so that relatives know what could happen but might never do so.

What these young people are doing, with the unstinting encouragement of their parents, is fulfilling their potential, just like any other young person.

Their struggles with learning difficulties or any other obstacles they encountered may have been more difficult to overcome than those of their peers, but their determination was equally greater.

Of course, they are not unique. There are parents throughout Northern Ireland who can tell the stories of how children with Down's syndrome have succeeded against the odds.

Sadly, society is often unable to see the potential in people with any kind of disability. People can even be cruel without really meaning to be.

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One of the three people featured saw only one person turn up for her 16th birthday, something that must have hurt.

But the positive message to come out of these stories today on World Down's Syndrome Day is that parents who accept that children born with a disability are just the same as any other babies play a vital role in the development of those children.

It is understandable that some parents may find it difficult to come to terms with the condition, but if they can recognise the joy that any child brings, rather than dwelling on the problems that may arise, their burden will become immeasurably lighter.

Even today there is a large degree of ignorance about the condition and its impact, and some of the negative conversations which surround news that the child in the womb may have Down's syndrome only add to the anxiety of the mother.

Better that they learn from the example of young people like those featured today.

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