It was a beautiful fall day in Greater Denver as we listened to a presentation by Xavier about himself, his family, and his recent activities. His fellow students in the elementary school class listened intently along with his mother, father, and grandparents. There should be nothing unusual about a class presentation, but my grandnephew, Xavier, happens to be a young man with Down syndrome. I may be biased, but Xavier showed a talent for showmanship – perhaps a direction for his teen and adult years.
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and Xavier’s inclusion and performance demonstrate that investing in children yields great results. I think of the classroom where I assisted youngsters aged three to seven years old with Down syndrome and other disabilities. It was on the ground floor of a separate school. We believed in these students, but their opportunities were limited by a society that was just awakening to their possibilities.
Only 43 years ago, Congress passed the predecessor of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), opening the door to education for all. But that is not enough. For Xavier to have opportunities as he grows older, we must help all families advocate, as his parents do, for the right supports and ensure equal opportunity in health care, employment, and other societal resources.
Seeing Xavier’s performance and his classmates’ connection to him, I have hope. These children can shape the future that we all want.
Leo V. Sarkissian