Raising my family in the Pacific Northwest, I had long been aware of Greg Palmer, and looked forward to the book he was writing about his son, Ned. Although I am a strong advocate for inclusion with support for all students with Down syndrome, Greg Palmer's opinions and their choices for Ned have been both practical and thoughtful. Because every individual with Down syndrome is unique, and there is so much diversity among families, we have no reason to expect uniformity in attitudes or decisions from families or young adults with Down syndrome themselves. The book _Adventures in the Mainstream - Coming of Age with Down Syndrome_ is the story of one family and one person with DS. This is a book that gives valuable insights to other parents, friends and extended family who have known no other person with Down syndrome. An added bonus is that we get to know Ned and his father.
Families of babies and young children who have Down syndrome often have as many concerns over opportunities and options that will be available in their child's adult life as they have with health and educational options during childhood. Parents and siblings of teens may be unaware of which services and supports will result in the best possible outcomes during high school transition years, when young people with Down syndrome may struggle with behavioral issues or personal preferences that seem to sabotage the best laid plans. Many will amaze even those closest to them with ambition or focus that leads them to unexpected accomplishments and relationships.
Very often young adults with Down syndrome who have had the great support and opportunities growing up will express their individual talents and abilities with a charm and self confidence that breaks down old stereotypes in their communities. Aptitude and accomplishments are especially noted during these years, when being in the spotlight can be both a blessing and a burden to mainstream teens as well.
Many individuals with Down syndrome struggle with articulation and communication; a number, including Greg Palmer's son Ned, have few difficulties with speech. This may have less to do with the choices parents made than the innate abilities of individuals. It is refreshing that Greg Palmer has the same compassion and respect for individuals with Down syndrome who struggle with communication or other issues as he does for his son. I also appreciate that he accepts certain idiosyncracies that most parents would find troubling, and he acknowledges that both he and his son make mistakes.
Many parent advocates feel that there are so many negative stereotypes and perceptions about children and adults who have Down syndrome, we must emphasize the positive attributes of our sons and daughters and their contributions to our families and their communities without dwelling on the few challenges they face in everyday life and common situations.
Some parents believe that the outside world and even extended family have an unrealistic view of their child because newspaper stories and television portrayals of characters with Down syndrome have swung too far either to the positive or to the overly sympathetic 'special' side. Others wish their families and neighbors would read newspaper and magazine articles and see relentlessly positive characters on tv because their own children are consistently underestimated. Greg Palmer's book gives us a glimpse of what life has been for his family and for Ned during the transition years. It is what it is, and I wish we had the opportunity to read a full sequel.
We do have the Question and Answer Exchange with Greg Palmer (May 1947 – 8 May 2009) at the Publisher's website.
Browse at your public library, local used book store, or online retailer for used editions of
Adventures In The Mainstream: Coming Of Age With Down Syndrome
He Canters When He Can by Greg Palmer can be found in
Uncommon Fathers: Reflections on Raising a Child with a Disability
I checked this book out of our public library.