Friday, February 6, 2015

Why the Recent Headlines About the Father Keeping His Son with Down Syndrome Are Hard to Read

Maybe you've seen the article lauding a father for keeping his child with Down Syndrome, despite his wife threatening divorce if he did.  I want to be clear: I don't fault the father.  He's doing what parents should do.  And I understand he needs money for the long trip home.  As I said, I don't fault him.

I take issue with the media's coverage of things like this and people's reactions to it.  This father is being viewed as heroic by some, which does absolutely no good for the disabled community.  This reaction feeds the idea that disabled kids are difficult to care for and that it takes an exceptional parent to care for us.  The truth is, though, we don't need amazing parents.  We just need parents, or a parent, or a person who loves us and is willing to care for us and fight for us, in the same way nondisabed children are.

This father is doing a human thing, not an amazing one.  Because that baby is a human being who needs a family, and if he were not disabled, this would not be news.  If a mother abandoned her nondisabled baby and threatened to divorce her husband if he kept him, it would not be news...because of course a parent would keep their child.

Armenia clearly has some archaic beliefs about disabled kids.  Let's focus on that, and how harmful that is, instead of just reporting that "it's the norm for 98% of babies with Down Syndrome in this certain country are abandoned to orphanages where they get extremely low quality of care, if any at all."

I am absolutely glad this father did what he did.  It's what I hope anyone would have done.  I just wish it wasn't framed in such an exceptional manner.