By Deborah Leigh Norman
Many of you have probably seen the “Keep Calm and Carry On” bright red posters. They were originally printed by the British Government during World War II in 1939 and one was discovered decades later with items from an auction. Perhaps you have enjoyed one of the hundreds of parodies such as “Keep Calm and Eat Cup Cakes” or “Keep Calm and Love Penguins.” My favorite is “Keep Calm – It’s Only an Extra Chromosome.”
When my son was born with Down syndrome, my first reaction was not to keep calm. I had many questions, some of which could not be answered, but I kept trying. I called several moms whose names I was given by family members or friends or neighbors – anyone who knew a mother of a child with Down syndrome. I wanted answers to my “what ifs,” but when I realized I couldn’t have answers or predictions, I hoped to learn from them. I remember one mother saying, “It’s going to be okay” over and over. She had four children and was in her yard chasing around a new puppy as we were talking on the phone. I remember thinking, “Is she crazy? I was just told my son has a cognitive disability, and she keeps telling me it’s going to be okay?” Looking back, I can see she was trying to tell me to keep calm.
The Keep Calm poster was actually the third in a series of posters created by the British Ministry of Information. The first two posters were widely used. “Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might” was the first poster and the second was “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory.” The Keep Calm poster was ready to be used to strengthen morale in case of an invasion during the war, which never happened, so they were not necessary. Most of my worry after the birth of my son was not necessary either. I have learned that people with Down syndrome are more like everyone else than different, and the mom I spoke with years ago was right, it is okay
October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. There is so much to appreciate about people with Down syndrome or any difference and not just by their friends and families, but by everyone. Early intervention, proper medical care and access to educational opportunities, including the increasing number of post-secondary education offerings, allow people with disabilities to develop their independence, have more authentic friendships and live more fulfilling lives.
There are an estimated 7 million people with Down syndrome in the world and over a billion people in the world with a disability. One of my other favorite parodies from the Keep Calm posters is “Keep Calm and Say Hi.” Next time you meet someone with Down syndrome or any difference, remember we’re all different, keep calm, and say hi.
About the Author
Deborah Leigh Norman grew up in Delaware and later moved to Virginia, Louisiana, and now Indiana. She is enjoying the journey of living in different regions of our country as well as the journey of her heart becoming a mother and then the mother of a child with a disability. Deborah Leigh has a B.A. and M.P.A. from the University of Delaware. Come share your journey with her at www.departingholland.com.