A downer syndrome: labeling kids

A vice president at Umpqua Bank, Brian Teal serves on the boards of Sunshine Kids and the Chico Noon Exchange Club. He and his wife, Kathleen, whom he met at Chico State, have lived in Chico for 14 years.

After becoming a father to a beautiful little girl who has Down syndrome, I now see what these children go through in their lives to become adults. Most children with Down syndrome are written off as “hopeless” or “too slow to be part of society.” My daughter is proof that this is not true.

Avery is incredibly social, and she is meeting all of her growth and development milestones on charts used for all children. At 2 years old, she knows over 140 signs in American Sign Language and loves to look through books and “keep up” with her 6-year-old sister.

My wife and I recently had a meeting regarding her schooling, which will start in August (preschool). One of the people present told us about several “special needs” classes that she thought my daughter should be in. We immediately countered that she will be integrated into a typical classroom setting.

I know that our daughter may be the exception, but that is just my point: Children with Down syndrome function at different levels, and for the communities in which they live to label them is not acceptable.

These children are individuals, each unique in his or her way, and they deserve to be treated as such. They communicate, love, trust, help, depend on others, and even throw temper tantrums. They are not to be ignored, pitied, or hidden from society; these people are every bit as deserving of a good life as the rest of us, and they understand that. They are to be commended for their work and adjustment they go through in order to become productive citizens.

Avery Teal

I take it as part of my responsibility as a father of a child with Down syndrome to make people aware of this. My daughter is not a “Downs baby"; Down syndrome is a small part of her, but she is not “Down syndrome.”