Thursday, November 3, 2011

See the Ability

Recently we were at the pediatrician for the twins check up.  Now that Sean is on paternity leave, the whole process is a lot easier, but we still have to bumble in, check in with the secretary, navigate the stroller through a narrow hall and door, get them out of the stroller and strip them down in preparation of the great weigh in.  It's hard not to feel like a circus ringmaster as we take babies out of our clown car of a stroller.  This one is wiggling, this one is crying, this one is trying to roll away while this one is busy pulling faces and charming the heck out of everyone.  Oh look.  This one pooped.

This visit was no different.  The great weigh-in found Zoe tipping the scales at a muscular 14.5 lbs while Wyatt was just over 13 lbs.  The are about the same size (Zoe is a tiny bit longer) and both have the same head circumference.  The weight differential can totally be attributed to the hypotonia;  Wyatt has weaker muscles which causes him to move less, which causes him to have less lean muscle mass (which is heavier than fat).  Both are continuing along their own prospective growth curves:  Zoe is in the 5th to 10th percentile while Wyatt is in the 25th percentile on the Down Syndrome Growth Charts.  At six weeks corrected (giving them a "developmental age" of 6.5 months at the time of the appointment), the pediatrician was amazed to see Zoe pull herself to a stand, fall into a sitting position, sit unassisted and have a mixture of rolling/crawling/army crawling.  Wyatt is just Wyatt:  he is still working on pushing himself up whilst on his tummy and he has added a small amount of pivoting.

The gulf between them is starting to be noticeable.  Although some well meaning family members (that obviously don't read this blog) tried to "warn me that this day would come" (?!), we aren't saddened by it as they predicted.  Yes, Zoe is a superstar.  No one has told her that she is ahead of the curve for a 6 week premature baby (and I'm not of the mind to change that either).  Wyatt is progressing at his own rate that is unique to him.  That is the nature of Down syndrome.

After they were born and we had proof positive that Wyatt had DS (his karyotype), I was talking to a friend and answering a question about Wyatt and was listing off a variety of things that he "couldn't" or "wouldn't" be able to do.  Wise woman that she is, my friend fired back with "Yes, and Zoe won't be an athlete at the Special Olympics either".  She is right.  There is a list of things that Wyatt won't/can't/shouldn't be able to do, but that is not what is important here.  It is what he CAN do that is important.  I don't think my friend realizes what a pivotal moment in my thinking that one little quip was, but it was.  You have to see beyond the diagnosis (and that is what it is... a diagnosis, not a disease, not an affliction, not something to be suffered) and see the person. We do this with our "typical" children instinctively;  if little Johnny shows an interest in music or sports we sign them up for lessons or a team (or hopefully both).  If our children show an ability in writing or drawing, we encourage this.  Maybe they can be the next Pulizer Prize winner... maybe they will be the next Michalangelo.  Maybe they won't.  But, we see the potential.  We see the ability.  It's the same thing with children with Down syndrome.  You have to see past the diagnosis and accept the person.

This week, from November 1st to 7th is National Down Syndrome Awareness Week in Canada.  This year, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society is encouraging everyone to "See the Ability", to look beyond Down Syndrome and see the person, not the genes.  That's a philosophy that we can easily embrace, as we have been doing it all along. 

We see Wyatt's ability.  His ability to make us laugh, to be the loveable huggable little fella that he is and the wonderful man he will become.  We hope that one day, not too long from now, everyone else will be able to see it too.

You can learn more about National Down Syndrome Awareness Week on the CDSS website,  "like" the Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @CdnDownSyndrome


  1. Elizabeth Argo-WilbanksNovember 3, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    I'm so glad you had a great friend to point that out. I had to come to terms with that same issue among friends and family, as well as myself. My daughter is just the way she is and has strengths all her own. It's not about can't but about can. Thanks for sharing!


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