We’ve encountered our fair share of subtle discrimination over the years. The people who talk to me as if Penny isn’t present. The professionals who have predicted her future in dire terms. The well-meaning comments that nevertheless dehumanize or demean her.
BUT. We have also encountered the loveliest people who see Penny for who she is and respect her as she is. Those people have included friends and family and pastors and therapists and teachers. Most recently they included the technician for her sleep study and the optometrist at Warby Parker.
At the sleep study, the woman who helped us described everything to Penny before she did it and then gently, graciously, with good humor, applied a gazillion little wires to Penny’s head and face and body. She talked to Penny the whole time rather than assuming I needed to speak for her. (As an aside, we did the sleep study because lots of kids with Down syndrome have sleep apnea and her doctor wanted us to check as a precaution. Thankfully, Penny does not.)
Then at Warby Parker, we brought Penny’s new glasses in for fitting. The optometrist worked on them three times. Each time, she asked Penny to be the judge of how they worked. She also asked us to come back again if they needed further adjustment. Penny insisted we return. When we arrived again the next morning there was no sign of exasperation. She ultimately advised us to return these glasses and get a different pair with nose pads that would help them stay in place on Penny’s narrow nose bridge.
These women were both kind and lovely. They treated Penny as the 17-year-old young woman that she is. They participated in Penny learning how to advocate for herself and learning how to expect to be treated well. And they offered a subtle and beautiful witness to the power of interacting with strangers with respect and compassion. They gave me great hope.
More with Amy Julia:
- Book: A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny
- Free Resource: Missing Out on Beautiful: Growing Up With a Child With Down Syndrome
- 3 Things I’m (Still) Learning About Down Syndrome
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