Something special happened about a generation or two ago.
We made a radical shift, from isolating people with disabilities to bringing them into our communities. Suddenly, people who had been excluded, invisible, became part of daily life. Some strode as adults from the abyss of large group homes into community settings. Others made more mundane entries – they were born to families whose intent was – simply – to love them.
All – the adults with disabilities, the newborn and families – became pioneers, confronting a wilderness of obstacles, prejudice, misconception and myth
We have come leagues since. Our sons and daughters with Down syndrome are now an integral part of daily life. They attend our schools, participate in their communities, hold jobs, pay taxes, vote. They bowl, play softball, go to football games. Some live with their families or in small group homes. And, increasingly, others live independently. Importantly, they contribute to their communities, giving back a measure of what they have gotten.
The National Down Syndrome Congress has been an important part of all of that. You see, we are the families of individuals with Down syndrome. And, with sincere thanks, professionals – doctors, attorneys, therapists, teachers – who rallied to us. We are the people who believe in our kids, demand their rights and get them affirmed. We are the people who supported them in all they did from infancy to adulthood. And, we are also them – we are people with Down syndrome.
Along the way, many of us became experts. We had this odd notion that we knew our kids better than anybody. We understood their needs and believed in their abilities. So we demanded better health care, creativity in education, community support. We lobbied for laws assuring their civil rights, seized the attention of boards of education and human services departments. And, we worked together, forming the NDSC in 1973. We worked tirelessly over the years to foster a network of local and regional groups across the country to reach out and embrace thousands of people – people with Down syndrome, their families, friends and the professionals who support them.
Together we are a formidable force. We have the power to put new parents at ease, open doors to leadership for teens and secure a rewarding future for all people with Down syndrome.
While much of the pioneering is behind us, much remains to be done. We must defend what we have gained and open new doors of opportunity. In the meantime, NDSC is a community in the best sense of the word. We join together each summer at our national convention to celebrate the lives of people with Down syndrome. To learn and motivate. To recognize the achievements of all. And, to laugh and, sometimes, cry.
Won’t you join us? No matter whether you are a parent, a grand parent, a self advocate or a professional, you are welcome here.