Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities Aim High

by Markian Hawryluk, The Bulletin, November 26, 2018

BEND, Oregon – Kim Gunderson-Moore stood outside the nursery window watching the two doctors examining her newborn son. The day before, when she first laid eyes on Cameron, she thought he might have Down syndrome. She asked the family practitioner who delivered him to bring in a pediatrician to check.

As the family practitioner came down the hall to talk to her, she already knew what he was going to say. He sat on the bed next to her, broke the news and told her he was sorry.

“This kind of thing can be hard on a marriage,” she recalls him saying, before he left to complete his rounds.

Sitting alone on the bed with her thoughts, she worried about what she knew about Down syndrome, how people with the condition had a shorter life span and how her son’s life would be different.

“I jumped ahead to all those worries instead of just totally soaking in this beautiful baby boy,” she said.

Later that morning, the pediatrician stopped by her room to congratulate her roommate on her healthy baby boy. He looked at Moore and walked out without saying a word.

The message, delivered nearly 28 years ago, was quite clear: Their life would be so difficult, it could ruin their marriage. They should be prepared for a tough life filled with heartbreak and sorrow. A baby born with a disability was not to be celebrated and should be spoken of in hushed tones.

It’s a message still heard today by thousands of parents of children with disabilities — temper your expectations so you won’t be disappointed. Research suggests quite the opposite. When parents have high expectations for their children with disabilities, those children are more likely to reach their full potential. They are more likely to complete their schooling, live independently and earn a living wage.

Increasingly, parents of children with disabilities are learning to ignore the negative messaging about their children’s limitations to focus instead on what their children can achieve.

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