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
All – the adults with disabilities, the newborn
and families – became pioneers, confronting a
wilderness of obstacles, prejudice, misconception and
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
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 moms at ease, open doors to leadership for
teens and secure a rewarding future for all people with
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.