Saturday, September 8, 2007

Down (Syndrome) With Love - A DC Metro Mom Post

I was at Babies 'R Us today picking up some essentials and I grabbed the September 2007 issue of Babytalk, a cute freebie on "straight talk for new moms". This month's cover model was an adorable 10-month old seated in an outdoor swing, wearing a cozy cable knit sweater and some multi-colored pants, bare feet catching some air, mouth wide open in that "look at me I'm airborne'" smile we're all familiar with. The baby happens to have Down syndrome and the accompanying story is "A new song: Parenting my son with Down syndrome isn't a trial; it's a joy" by writer Jennifer Graf Groneberg.

Flip to page 6 and the Editor-in-Chief's column, written by Susan Kane, is a definite eye-opener. Kane writes,

"Back in 2001, Babytalk was the first national parenting magazine to feature a baby with Down syndrome on its cover. The accompanying article, on the benefits of early intervention, earned us our first National Magazine Award nomination. I figured we had broken a barrier, and I waited to see which magazine would put one of these beautiful children on its cover next. Turns out, it's us again."

Could this be true? Ten years gone by without another national parenting magazine featuring a baby with Down syndrome on their cover?

While I have seen children with Down syndrome and children with special health care needs featured in everything from magazines to shopping circulars, it is striking to me when I do see photographs of these children. Striking not because they have Down syndrome or are in a wheelchair, but striking because it makes me realize how infrequently these children are included in our every day reads.

Why is that? Is it because statistically most parents do not have a child with special health care needs? Is it because magazines and retailers fear that some consumers will be "put off" by the inclusion of children who do not look like them? I truly do not know the answer to these questions, but I do know that there are over 350,000 people in the United States with Down syndrome and that number not only includes babies and toddlers, but also young adults and adults who, guess what, can be savvy consumers too.

If you have never read "Welcome to Holland", a brief essay written by Emily Perl Kingsley, one of the brilliant minds behind the creation of Sesame Street and the mother of a son with Down syndrome, I highly recommend you do. In the meantime, I commend Babytalk for featuring a child with Down syndrome on the cover of their September issue and hope that others will follow suit. It would be wonderful to see these child on the cover of our glossies just 'cause and not because October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month or because of a Down syndrome-related feature.

If what the Editor of Babytalk writes is true, and I have no reason to doubt her, what will the next 10 years bring?

{Down (Syndrome) With Love was originally posted by moi on DC Metro Moms}}


Anonymous said...

I was shocked to read a while back that of the Down Syndrome cases diagnosed prenatally in the US, 80-90% are voluntarily terminated.
Contrary to the stat, Marth Beck, a Harvard student chose to continue her pregnancy with a Down child, and wrote about it in Expecting Adam. Fabulous and inspiring book.

Jenny said...

What a great post (and great links). Like Renee, I loved the book Expecting Adam.

Mary Beth said...

I was shocked too about the 10 years and no other cover shots being published. And I really loved that Expecting Adam book too.