December 24 2011 Children with Special Needs Newsletter
Winter Holidays and Family Stress
There are many reasons that winter holiday stress complicates the lives of families of children with disabilities, developmental delays or chronic health conditions.
Wishing you many happy moments and joyous events as we gather our families around to share an abundance of love and traditions that our children will anticipate and recreate each year of their lives. I wish I had painted an ornament each year with a reminder of the most wonderful thing that happened so I could remind my children of those events. I saw a video Christmas greeting last week about a family who used the cut off end of their tree as that kind of ornament each year. That tradition was started by their son when he was very young.
Although my family celebrates Christmas, I have traditions that remind me of friends of my childhood. At Hanukkah I always serve pistachio nuts and bring them to parties, because my first Jewish friend in elementary school introduced me to them this time of year. In my mind I associated the food with her religion and with Hanukkah, a connection that puzzles and/or amuses friends who celebrate Hanukkah.
Dear friends and relatives who are distracted by our children's diagnoses may form associations of their own about a disability or health condition that might be puzzling and that could be remembered as funny from a future perspective. Certainly the stereotype of children with Down syndrome being consistently happy, easy-going and compliant seems funny to me - or that they are always hard-working, brave and congenial. It is good when positive attributes are recognized, but a bit troublesome when they are expected or demanded.
Likewise, I am frustrated when a negative stereotype for stubbornness, bad temper, dishonesty or misbehavior is attributed to all children with Down syndrome. Individuals with Down syndrome have the same range of emotion and variability in personality as their mainstream peers. I am certain this is true of every child who has a diagnosis.
People may continue to believe something they learned in childhood by association or what they have seen and overheard among the adults or from peers. Just as I continue to associate pistachios with the celebration of the Jewish holiday, others may allow themselves familiar positive or negative stereotypes about children with special needs. All we can do is gently inform and remind them that we disagree, and that all evidence points to the contrary - and hope that eventually they will be able to hold two opposing beliefs at once in their conscious minds.
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Pamela Wilson, Children with Special Needs Editor
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Down Syndrome Advocacy
Children with Special Needs
Thank you for encouraging and supporting children with special needs, their siblings, and all our families in your own community.
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