That was in the "old days" when people where just beginning to realize that people with Down Syndrome were capable of contributing to society in positive ways and actually have a good potential to achieve. Most people with Down Syndrome were not "severely retarded" like we were told at birth, but rather were more likely labeled “mild to moderately” retarded. There were no upbeat books in the libraries and the support groups were just forming. The information was on its way, but coming in drips
We weren't sure where to turn exactly, but slowly began meeting other young families and learning from them.
Our son seemed to be good at cognitive and speech tasks, but much slower in the area of gross motor. All of his friends in the infant stimulation programs were walking when Joshua was still crawling. We understood then that the others were all getting physical therapy for their children. We hired Diane, a wonderful therapist who had been working with the others and we were on the way.
Joshua was about two and a half years old and I recognized that he would walk, but I was still concerned about his gait and his future ability to run, jump and ride a bike as well. I asked my therapist if he will run and jump like his friends Michael and Kevin. Our therapist answered, "I don't think he will ever be Special Olympics material, but he will walk and run and jump.
Josh graduated from physical therapy at the age of about three.
When he was ten, Josh was in the Special Olympics. He participated in the tennis ball throw and running races. (He had also trained in swimming and was very good at that, but the official competition for swimming was on the Sabbath, so he didn't participate).
Joshua received gold medals in all of his competitions!!!
I suddenly remembered that we had been told that he would never be Special Olympics material and here he was, a first place winner!!!
I called up Diane (whom I had not seen in seven years). I asked if she remembered us and what she had told us all those years ago. After reminding her, I told her that Joshua not only participated in the Special Olympics but also received gold medals.
She was not only pleased for Joshua and his success but also pleased that I called her to tell her and she quickly understood that she had made a mistake… Never say never!! She told me that we had helped her to be a better therapist by stressing that point to her.
So once again, having a certain expectation is important. We do not want to be unreasonable about those expectations but many things are within our grasp if we work hard and believe.
Susie Feder is a nurse midwife at Sha'arei Zedek Hospital, Jerusalem.