Daniel J Vance

Often, people sharing their story for this column prefer using a pseudonym in order to protect their child’s identity. Such was the case recently with 37-year-old “Sharon,” the birth mother of 12-year-old “John,” who was born with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is caused by an embryo cell division that creates an extra No. 21 chromosome. It affects about 350,000 Americans and is the leading cause of intellectual disability.

Said Sharon in a telephone interview, “I was stunned during prenatal testing when we first learned (John) had Down syndrome. I didn’t quite know what having it meant and we didn’t know of anyone with it. But abortion never entered my mind. I told somebody in my family about (John having Down syndrome) and they said, ‘God must think you’re able to handle it. Whatever comes your way, you’re strong.’ That’s why I couldn’t (have an abortion). I knew (John) was going to be special.”

Today, John enjoys watching NASCAR, playing video games, and playing ball. He’s laid back, “fun and funny,” said Sharon, and friendly, “sweet,” and “charming.”

Sharon said, “In other words, he’s pretty much a normal boy going through preteen years. He loves to play Wii, and in order to get to play he’ll do just about anything, including cleaning his room, giving hugs, doing anything just to be able to play the game.”

At school, he gets along fine with classmates with disabilities, but sometimes feels a little intimidated by non-disabled peers. Sharon doesn’t exactly know why, but speculates that in some way John senses he’s different. Many of his classmates look out for him, though.

“I also have a daughter, who is younger,” said Sharon. “When pregnant with her, I asked the doctor about the possibility of her having Down syndrome, too. But really, it didn’t matter to me one way or the other.”

In ten years, Sharon and her husband would like John to have graduated from high school and have a good friend, and an enjoyable job and hobby. As for his health, except for an intestinal blockage in infancy, John hasn’t had anything exceptional to mention.

Sharon offered advice: “I’d tell a mother it’s going to be okay. Kids with Down syndrome are just like any other kid. There isn’t anything different other than their being special. Other people may see their disability, but that doesn’t mean you will.”

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