Now is an exciting time for people whose lives are touched by Down syndrome. Society is moving closer to a matter-of-fact acceptance and inclusion of people with DS, and the change is perceptible. Poor Becky gets her heart broken on Glee — not in a contrived, “very special episode” way, but in the ordinary way every high schooler does. A cute kid with DS appears in a retail ad, and no one makes a big deal about it (that is, unless you count those of us who’re thrilled that no one made a big deal about it). Hundreds of active bloggers and tweeters share the everyday reality of parenting a child with DS — they have good days and bad days, too — quietly spreading the message that raising a child is equal parts work and wonder, regardless of how many chromosomes. A gutsy teenager tells another not to say, “retarded,” simply and directly; the correction is made, both teens move on, and maybe one more mind is changed.
Collectively, then, we’re coming to understand that disability is part and parcel of the human experience, and that on the one hand, we should certainly celebrate diversity — but that on the other, everyone benefits when we accept it as a natural condition and accommodate it without a fuss.
This cultural inclusion is a huge hopeful step forward for us all. Add to this the statistic that the life expectancy for someone with DS has doubled in the last 20 years, and the fact that scientists are making strides in DS cognition research that we couldn’t have guessed at even eight short years ago, and there are lots of reasons to be optimistic about the future.
But there’s also reason for concern. About 400,000 people in the United States have Down syndrome, but despite its relative frequency of occurrence, the government provides less in funding for DS research than it spends for similar disabilities — 30 times less — only $55 per individual with DS annually. And without the money to pay for it, the promise of DS cognition research may go unfulfilled.
Here at the plus15 Blog, we want to tell you about this research. We want to show you why it’s important. We want you to know what it could mean for people who live with Down syndrome — not just the people who have it, but the people who care for them, too. We want to spur you to imagine how these lives could be transformed with just a 15% improvement in learning, memory, and speech. And we want to hear your voice — we hope you’ll share your stories.
Each week you can expect us to discuss the research that’s happening around the country and why it matters. We’ll talk to researchers about their work, have guest bloggers share their experiences, and give accessible breakdowns of the science behind the research that is plus15’s reason for being. Thank you for joining us here on our blog. We welcome your thoughts, ideas, and questions. We’re excited to begin demystifying DS research, and we hope you’ll be energized by the possibilities.