Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cherish Children with Disabilities (Times of Trenton, Easter Sunday 2009)

Original Submission....
On Wednesday, April 1st, the Times of Trenton carried two pieces concerned with sensitivity about language, when discussing people with disabilities – particularly people with cognitive disabilities.

As per the Times’ version of an AP piece by Gillian Gaynair, Special Olympics has launched an educational campaign against the use of the word “retard”, as well as “mental retardation.” Kudos to the Special Olympics. Elsewhere in that day’s paper, the executive director of Mercer Arc absolved President Obama for a recent pejorative joke about Special Olympics, as Obama supposedly “has an admirable record of supporting people with developmental disabilities.” Not so fast – rabid support for abortion is NOT commensurate with “an admirable record of supporting people with developmental disabilities.” The hijacking of respectful language can be a thin veneer over absolutely disrespectful attitudes toward human beings.

Many groups like the Special Olympics were begun by parents, in an effort to enhance the lives of their children (minors and adults) with cognitive disabilities. In the past, many of those children were people with Down Syndrome. Recent decades have seen a profound reduction in the population of people with Down Syndrome. As per a 5/9/07 New York Times article by Amy Harmon, 90% of pre-born children identified with Down Syndrome are aborted: “A dwindling Down syndrome population, which now stands at about 350,000, could mean less institutional support and reduced funds for medical research. It could also mean a lonelier world for those who remain.”

In 2007’s “Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives,” Kathryn Lynard Sipes offered a collection of essays, aimed at helping parents understand the absolute preciousness of their child with Down Syndrome. On a deeper level than language, advocacy groups need to fight for the recognition of the sanctity of each and every human life.

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