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An Open Letter to Sarah Palin

An Open Letter to Sarah Palin

From one parent of a child with Down syndrome to another.


Dear Governor Palin,

I'm sure you're pretty busy juggling your home and new baby, the state of Alaska and running for vice president. But I thought a few words of advice are in order, from one parent of a child with Down syndrome to another. This is one area in which I've got four years more experience than you.

1. First of all, a belated mazel tov! You and your family will get tons of joy and nachas from Trig. Of the cases of Down syndrome diagnosed by prenatal testing each year, about 90% are eliminated by abortion. I bet most of those parents would choose otherwise if they knew the tremendous blessing entailed in raising such a child.

Enjoy all of his the triumphs, big and small. Our son Yehuda just started kindergarten; he is included in a regular class in one of Jerusalem's best schools. He speaks two languages, is learning the Hebrew alphabet, and is excited to be going to the same school as his two older brothers.

Trig is not defined by his disability; he is first and foremost a person like anyone else.

2. Realize that Trig is not defined by his disability; he is first and foremost a person like anyone else. Every person has a unique mission and purpose in this world. Trig does too, and your job as his mother is to help him bring out his full potential, whatever that may be.

3. Don't put a limit on Trig's potential and sell him short. Expect the most. As his best advocate, inculcate in him and in those around you the belief that with hard work and determination, Trig can do anything, until proven otherwise. Don't confuse accepting him as he is with resignation.

4. Don't feel sorry for him because he has a disability. Treat him like your other children, setting limits, giving discipline and lots of love.

5. Trig needs loads of early intervention that will strengthen his muscles and work his brain. Get started on this immediately. Too busy campaigning? Make sure Todd or some primary caregiver is spending hours a day working with him. Everything you do now pays off in the end.

6. Trig is going to have greater needs than everyone else in your family. But be sure not to neglect your husband and other kids (good advice for anyone running for vice president). Making sure your marriage stays strong and vibrant is your top priority.

7. Appreciate his strengths -- chances are he'll have an awareness of people's feelings and a compassion streak far greater than other kids his age. But don't overcompensate and turn Trig into some kind of saint. He's just a boy, with strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.

8. Things go a lot slower for a kid who has Downs. In order to enter Trig's world you're going to need an abundance of patience and force yourself to slow down. If you don't have that trait now, start developing it. God doesn't make mistakes; He gives us the specific challenges we need to bring out our own potential. You need Trig as much as he needs you. His birth can be a catalyst for personal growth for you and your entire family.

Your nomination has already challenged people's perception of Down syndrome. Whether you win or lose, we look forward to great strides in the advancement of benefits for the disabled everywhere.

With thanks to Gershon Lewis and Chaya Malka Abramson, two inspiring parents of children with Downs.

September 13, 2008

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 60

(60) Anonymous, September 23, 2008 12:57 PM

Finally, positive words about these people.

There was a woman in our town, White Plains,N.Y., who adopted a few Down Syndrom children, and was honored for her role in nuturing and giving each a chance to rreach his *or* her potential.

(59) Steffany, September 22, 2008 10:55 AM

A change of heart

I personally know two people with DS, and used to avoid them, as I did not know how to interact with them. After many years of being around these people, I can have a normal conversation with one of them, and have come to realise that they do, indeed have much to offer our society in many many ways. It makes me sad that so many pregnant women make the choice to terminate a child when they find out it may have DS, out of ignorance *or* fear, as that is what motivates them, I am sure. There is the option of actually giving birth, and giving the baby up for adoption, as there are so many people desperate for a baby that cannot have their own, and would gladly welcome a baby with DS, especially with all of the growing positive information such as this out there today!

(58) IDA RAYE, September 20, 2008 8:32 AM


(57) Diane, September 19, 2008 10:51 AM


Many of these comments contain very disrespectful language towards people who happen to have Down syndrome. As with all people, some are short and some tall, some are smarter than others, some are nicer than others, but they are all people just like everyone else and deserve to be spoken and written about as such. Too many of you speak about people with Down syndrome as if they are eternal children which THEY ARE NOT. Please look at some language guidelines and some Down syndrome advocacy group websites for the proper way to think, speak and write about people with Down syndrome. If one takes the time and opportunity to really get to know a person with Down syndrome one finds they are so much more like other people than they are different.

(56) Diane, September 18, 2008 9:41 AM

please use full name

I too have a child with Down syndrome. My daughter is 23, so I have some years of experience also. Your letter had some very good advice for Governor Palin. My only issue is with your use of the word "Downs". It is much better to use the full name -Down syndrome- when speaking about our children. Too often folks will then refer to them as "Downs" rather than as people first. Some people with Down syndrome will also say "I am a Downs person." if that is how they are referred to by others. It is so important to always refer to ALL people as people first and then their diagnosis (if that is even necessary). I highly recommend the website: for lots of common sense advice. Thank you for listening to me.

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