Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Heard a new one

I always welcome questions from strangers who are genuinely interested in learning about Down syndrome or in what makes Caden different and the same as everyone else. I feel like part of being an advocate is this public education. I knew very little about Trisomy 21 before Caden came into my life so I appreciate anyone who has the courage to approach us. But I heard a new one this weekend.

I was watching a parade with my family and friends. Caden was seated beside me when a quiet polite woman approached and sat on the other side of my son. She smiled at him and I could see the questions forming in her eyes. Finally she looked up at me and said "Do you mind if I ask you a question?"

"Not at all. Go ahead," I invited, glad to put her curiosity to rest.

"Is he bipolar?" she asked. I couldn't believe I'd heard her right. The parade was loud so I asked her to repeat herself and again she wondered aloud if Caden was bipolar.

I wanted to laugh. I wanted her to laugh and show me she wasn't serious. Bipolar? I've had people confuse Down syndrome with other conditions before but bipolar disorder? This was out of left field. Admittedly I'm a psychology major so maybe I have more familiarity with mental illnesses. Still I was a little shocked that there could be so little awareness of a condition much more common than Down syndrome. I reminded myself to grasp this teachable moment.

"No, he has Down syndrome," I finally replied to which she answered "Oh, of course." From there we had the conversation I was actually expecting about DS and life with Caden. She really warmed up as our talk progressed, hugging my boy and kissing him on the head.

No matter how outrageous the question seemed, I am still grateful that this stranger was brave enough to ask it even though it exposed her lack of knowledge in the process. We are all better off for it.

1 comment:

Mommy to those Special Ks said...

LOL That's a new one for me, too! I think sometimes people are just trying to figure it out and they can't place it so they pull out the first disorder they can think of. I too love it when people have the guts to ASK though instead of just staring! I'm sure that lady went home that night and told everyone about the cute little guy with Ds she met! :o)