Smile and Engage

Today is World Down Syndrome Day! Time to dig into the archives and repost something I have written in October 2010 🙂 Edited it slightly, changed his age and added a new picture 🙂

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I would like to tell you about my nephew Tijs. He is 4 years old and he acts exactly like any other boy of his age. His eyes (and sometimes his acts) are full of mischief, he loves to play, he loves animals (especially elephants), drawing and puzzles.

And he loves to read. When we were away in a weekend home with my side of the family, I was up early and sat on the floor with him. We read a book about animals. He pointed out each animal, and then smiled when I said its name together with him. It was truly precious to see how many he knew, and how he giggled when I said the wrong name.
He is such a joy to be around. His spirit is such that he manages to make everyone around him smile. (Unless he is mad, which he also can do really well  ).
It’s mesmerizing to see my father (who has Alzheimers) and him communicate in a way that involves anything but words.
But, when others see Tijs, they don’t see that amazing boy he is, they just see what he has: Down Syndrome. I have seen people just stare, turn their heads, look with contempt…
Behavior like this is fueled by fear. It is natural for human beings to fear what they don’t know and often lack of understanding fuels that even more.
And when you look at people with disabilities through those eyes, you miss making a connection to someone who has the ability to make you look at life in a different way.
I challenge you to make an impact, by not averting your eyes next time you encounter someone with a disability. I challenge you to smile and engage in contact with them. Who knows, it may enrich your life in a way like my nephew has enriched mine, as he does for all of us fortunate enough to know him.
He’s the kind of boy who does that, just because of who he is. And that’s a blessing anyone should have.

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