Count Us In: Growing Up With Down Syndrome
As my first “book review” on this blog, I feel the need to provide a disclaimer. I do not intend to create reviews in the traditional sense. My purpose is to point out the things I like or dislike, the things I found helpful (or not), and how the book impacted me. My reviews are intended to be personal reflections on the book.
Primed and ready for this book
In the delivery room on March 20, 2009 the nurse and doctor told me and my wife that they suspected that our precious little baby boy may have Down syndrome (it was later verified by a karyotype). It did not matter to me; my little baby was/is perfect. I was not fazed because even then I had the same dream for my son as I have for my other three children. I want them all to have long and happy lives; to find what they enjoy doing in life, what God has created them to do. Down syndrome is certainly part of who Treyton is but it does not define him. Right there in that delivery room I promised my son that I would be there to help him navigate the many challenges that would await him because of that extra chromosome. If someone wants to try to hold my boy back because he has Down syndrome they had better be ready to be knocked on their ass!
When I typed “down syndrome” into the search bar on my Kindle many titles were returned in the search but thankfully God guided my eyes to this title. Within just one or two sentences of the book description I could tell that the two young men that wrote this book had my kind of attitude.
Authors with Down syndrome
This book was written by friends Jason Kingsley and Mitchell Levitz; it was first published in 1994 and then updated again in 2007. The key to the entire book is the fact that the authors both had Down syndrome. That was probably the single biggest reason I started reading the book in the first place.
The majority of this book is a firsthand account of life from these eyes of these two men (they were boys at the time of writing). However, there are also portions where the mothers give their perspectives and even the grandfather gets in on the action. The book is an honest account of the challenges and opportunities faced by these young men. There were a few times I felt a little sad and there were times I had to find someone to tell about the funny stories in the book.
Lessons and highlights
As I reflect on this book, the first thing that really strikes me is how similar Jason and Mitchell are to me. As young men they are interested in girls, finding jobs, and gaining independence. The have strong opinions regarding politics and they have very unique senses of humor. At times life was difficult and there were times when they were full of hope and excitement about what lay ahead for them.
One of the early anecdotes that Jason’s mother shared in the book was that the doctor told her and Jason’s dad that their new baby would not be able to do anything useful in life. The doctor actually told them to put Jason in an institution and then go home and tell friends and family that the baby died in childbirth. I could not believe what I was reading. This was not something that happened in the dark ages. Jason was born June 27, 1974; I was born January 2, 1973. This is the type of attitude doctors had about Down syndrome when I was born. One of the best parts of this book, for me, was when Jason responds to the doctor that recommended his parents put him in an institution. You will need to read the book to find out what Jason says.
Other important lessons include:
- With high expectations and good opportunities, kids with Down syndrome turn into responsible, tax-paying citizens that have something to contribute to society
- It is foolish to attempt to predict the quality of a person’s life based on a label or diagnosis
- People with Down syndrome will continue to learn and grow, not plateau, as long as they are provided the right opportunities
- People with Down syndrome have something to give to society
If you have a child with Down syndrome you will benefit from reading this book. If you do not have a child with Down syndrome but know someone that does, you will benefit from reading this book. If you know someone that has a child with Down syndrome and think they would benefit from this book you are probably right but do not show up at their house and out of the blue hand them a copy of the book. If you don’t have a kid with the diagnosis that may sound counter intuitive but that is because you really don’t know what it is like to have your child diagnosed with “The Syndrome.”
As far as I am concerned, I am excited about Treyton’s future. He is going to have some hurdles to overcome those kids without the diagnosis will not have to worry about which is where people like me come into play. Please join me in helping to make this world a place where all people are valued for the people that they are and not the label that has been placed upon them.