21 Stories for WDSD- Down syndrome is like a fingerprint

Down syndrome is like a fingerprint

What do we know about fingerprints?
We know they are unique to each individual, and so it is with Down syndrome (Ds). We know that each person with Ds has an extra chromosome on their 21st pair, but what that means to each individual person is different. We know that having this extra chromosome can cause many things, but not the same thing for each person. We know it can lead to intellectual and physical challenges, but we cannot say that it effects each person in the same manner or at the same time. We at best can say, “An individual has Down syndrome,” just as we might look at a typical person on a plane next to us and wonder, “How did he get to be taller than me?”

This issue is our perception or point of view. Much of our lives are governed by our points of view, our observations, life experience, and this is the point I wish to convey to all of you today. “Don’t get trapped in your perception! It might just limit your view.”

Jason is my third child and he has Down syndrome. He is the baby of our family, but he surely is not a baby. We should not treat him that way (sometimes we forget this). Sometimes we assume if we speak louder Jason will hear us better, but Jason has no hearing issues.

What we sometimes forget is that more than anything else is that he is a teenager. If, for just a moment, we think back to our older children, we would realize they use to (and now that I think of it, still do) give us the “eye roll” that says, “I heard you just fine, I just have no plan to do it your way.”

I like to call it the perception trap. I learn every day that Jason understands more, and can do more then I might think. Whose fault is that? It surely is not his. I have also learned that I should not let myself fall into this trap or underestimate him, as it plays into Jason’s favor each and every time.

He knows exactly what he wants and acts decisively with purpose if it is something he plans or wants to do. If I am directing him to do something there always seems to be some hesitation as he is eyeing me up to see just how much I will do for him. Who really is at the disadvantage here?

I guess the thing I most wish to share during this month leading up to World Down Syndrome Day, is this: Just maybe we might be stuck on our own perception of what a person with Down syndrome can accomplish, or what they should be? Maybe it is not them that needs to conform to our thinking, but rather, maybe we as a people have to be more empathetic, compassionate, understanding, and respectful. Maybe we just might figure out that they know, contribute, and accomplish a lot more than we do, and that they’re smart enough and humble enough not to show their hand all of the time.

My advice, if I am at all qualified to give any, is this: Keep your eyes wide open. Learn to accept it is our perceptions that might not always be correct. Learn to watch without pre-judgment. In doing so, we might learn that every individual with that little extra on their 21st chromosome is probably a lot more than anyone might have expected. Always remember that each individual with Down syndrome has a fingerprint in life that is every bit as unique as every other persons’ in the world, and we should always be mindful of the great contributions they can and will make within our community and in our lives.

About the Author: Dave Gazzillo is the current President of the DSA of Delaware. Married to Jeanne, and the father of three, Jason being the youngest (Ds). Dave is a Senior Vice President of Statement Marketing operations at Bank of America. Through vision and leadership we hope to grow and mold a better more inclusive world one step at a time, so that all can participate and share.