Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Up Side of Down Syndrome

OK, so Down Syndrome really has nothing whatsoever to do with quantum physics, ghosts, or any of the other paranormal subjects I am prone to study and write about. Even so, I have begun writing a new book on the topic of Down Syndrome, for a couple of reasons.
First, I recently had the distinct pleasure of welcoming a delightful young lady with Down Syndrome into my home. She quickly became an integral part of our family and is a constant source of good humor, exuberance, and fun. My second reason for starting the book is a bit more serious. While skimming a recently published book on autism a few months ago, I stumbled upon this disturbing statistic: due to the wide availability of new and less invasive prenatal testing, 80-90% of all children with Down Syndrome are being aborted in the first trimester.

Initially I was sure the number had to be an exaggeration, but after further investigation I discovered the statistic was accurate. Largely due to outdated and inaccurate information about Down Syndrome, the majority of physicians are strongly recommending termination of these pregnancies, leaving many parents with what they feel is little choice in the matter. Most of what the general public knows about Down Syndrome is based on stereotypes, misinformation, and a lack of experience relating to individuals with intellectual disabilities. (By the way, the term "mental retardation" is being officially phased out as a medical diagnosis and is being replaced with "intellectual/developmental disability.")

The purpose of the book is to raise awareness of this alarming trend (with which we seem to be teetering dangerously close to the practice of eugenics,) and to dispel the common myths about Down Syndrome. Modern advances in health care are allowing most individuals with Down Syndrome to live longer, more productive lives than ever before. I hope to show that these individuals, once revered by some ancient cultures as being endowed with god-like qualities, are less of a burden on society than a good portion of our so-called "normal" population.