The Cougar Chronicle

Down’s syndrome taught me kindness

Rainna Heggenberger, Features Writer

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Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week is a celebration of the different ways that people with Down’s Syndrome make differences in their communities.

Down’s Syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when a child is born with an extra chromosome. About one in every 700 children born in the U.S. each year are diagnosed. Individuals can be physically characterized by their small stature and upwardly-slanting eyes. They can have a short life expectancy, as few as 25 years.

However, despite their cognitive delays, they are able to lead normal lives in their school and work.

When my cousin Bryce was born, everything went as expected. It was a simple pregnancy, and there were no issues with the delivery. However, he was quickly diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, which led to many surgeries to prevent heart and breathing problems that are common with the disorder.

When my baby cousin looked up at us with big green eyes after his first heart surgery, my entire family was solemn.
We didn’t know if he would make it through his first year.

Now, a 12-year-old boy looks up at me with a grin, dancing around to music that he mumbles the words to in a language of his own.

It is safe to say that Down’s Syndrome changed my life. But this isn’t because of the fear, the complications or the challenges.

My cousin changed my life because he taught me kindness. He cannot form complete sentences, but as he uses sign language to say “I love you,” he has taught me that love does not have a language. When he crossed the finish line while competing in the Special Olympics, he taught me that we can overcome, with a smile, any challenge that we face. He is a survivor of multiple heart surgeries; a living lesson on perseverance and hope.

This Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week, be sure to recognize the brave individuals in your community. However, do not look at them with sympathy, as we might even be able to learn more from them than they learn from us.

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