"A Child with Down syndrome Keeps His Place at the Table" – Brilliant Op-Ed by George Estreich

This is a quick post, and not a moment too soon, seeing as it’s Saturday. This should reach you in time for a leisurely morning read over a lovely hot  (caffeinated) beverage, with your day in front of you, simply sparkling with the promise that a new day holds (if you are not depressed).


So, without further ado, here’s the Op-Ed from one of my favorite authors, George Estreich. He wrote about the waiter in Houston who recently refused to serve the customers who wanted the boy with Down syndrome to be “special” somewhere else.


This article transcends the feel-good, trite sort of rehash of a Disney-coloured moment – Estreich relates this in poignant ways to the civil rights movement, emphasizing how far we have come – and how far we have to go.


I think about this sort of thing a lot. It’s not that I believe we will be refused service or asked to leave a restaurant because of Moxie’s Down syndrome – or because of my deafness. I think about it more in terms of the “special” that is prevalent now, how the word “special” is taking the place of “retard”; how people now have their “special moments” and you know what? Call me uptight but I’m not laughing. 


Words like this go to show, as Estreich says, that “any word can be repurposed for contempt.” And incidences like the one in Houston go to show that things are changing – and within the change that is still needed, there are larger questions. As he says:


Beneath the human interest story, in other words, is a question about who counts as human. For parents of children with Down syndrome like me, every daily act is an answer. What I live for, though, is the day when the question doesn’t come up.


The article is HERE  –  I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.


George Estreich is the author of one of my favorite memoirs on Down syndrome/parenting: The Shape of the Eye


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is a deaf blogger, global nomad, tech-junkie, cat-lover, Trekkie, Celto-Teutonic-peasant-handed mom of 3 (one with Down syndrome and one gifted 2E).
She likes her coffee black and hot.
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  • This was brilliant: “… the word “special” was used as an insult, which only testifies to the resilience of prejudice.”

    The use of the word ‘special’ has always bugged me: “child with special needs,” “special education,” “special needs trust,” etc. So has the word ‘angel,’ but at least it gets applied to all kids, not just kids with disabilities. Anyhow, “special” bugs me because it’s another way to identify difference and it supports segregation. We’ve legitimized it in public benefits, education and the general lexicon.

  • First off, George’s op-ed was astute and wonderful, as is typical of his writing.

    Second – yes, this goes along with what I’ve been saying for a while – that we can insist that the terminology be changed (“retarded” to “intellectually disabled”), but it doesn’t do a bit of good unless attitudes and views are changed, because it’s the attitudes and the views that drive the language. As long as people with intellectual disabilities continue to be seen as less than, pejorative language will continue to “repurpose” words for contempt. It’s only a matter of time before “intellectually disabled” will be flung around on playgrounds and at dinner parties as a casual insult.

  • Thank you for sharing that. It was definitely thought provoking. It surprises me sometimes that there is still so much ignorance towards people with disabilities.

    I’m glad you mentioned the use of the word special. Yesterday I took Liza to OT at the therapy center that the majority of children with disabilities in my area go to. There was a young buy there, I don’t know his disability or why he was there, but it was definitely for some type of therapy. As he and his mother/caregiver were leaving he was talking to everyone and then started singing along with the radio – it was cute and funny. Everyone laughed, and his mom/caregiver says, “he’s special”. Everyone stopped laughing and all I could think was, ‘why would she say that? Here? Right in front of him?’ Maybe she just has no idea how it sounded or how it would be taken but it really bothered ME.

  • Can I just say…WOW. Thank you for sharing this article. My son is 10 (with Ds), and I’ve been thinking a lot about what the future holds lately, and I’m terrified to tell you the truth.
    Hearing the same thoughts that have been floating around in my brain from a parent of a child closer to the age of my son is, well, a confirming feeling. (if that makes sense)

  • Great post, Meriah! I’m impressed that you were able to blog first thing in the morning–I just have the one kiddo, and I had to ignore her while blogging about her. She kept saying, “Waffle, please?” while I was finishing up the post.

    • Oh, it’s not what it might seem, Alison! I can only write when the older two are either still asleep or someone else is with them. I just have the baby with me, either nursing or asleep – although I have finished up a post or project with him sitting up in my lap, against me (“the human chair”). Luckily, his sleep is getting to be normal so I’m back in my morning routine, more or less (up by 5, writing or working on web development)

  • YOU are BRILLIANT. ALL I have to say,
    the day we ‘ALL’ belong…labels set aside. (park them outside) Sit together.

    Love what you said!
    Parent of a child….(note the lack of more words after child)

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