a group of people with down syndrome looking up with a black background. yellow text in front reads "Assume That I can so maybe I will"

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This is a parent-to-parent response and commentary on the short video “Assume That I Can So Maybe I wthat CoorDown produced for World Down syndrome Day.

The 2024 CoorDown video for World Down syndrome Day explores the idea of self-fulfilling prophesies. ‘Assume That I Can So Maybe I Will” and with that, the ability to live independently, fully, with friends, engage with community, and learn at will. Here’s the video:

The Power of Belief

Believing that our kids can do things is crucial. Our kids will pick up on what we project. We’re like Bluetooth devices, toggled to ‘on,’ and the radar (or whatever it is) from our Bluetooth is constantly being emitted and our kids’ internal Bluetooth connections are set to pick up whatever we emit.

If we believe they can, or we believe they can’t, they will pick it up.

Whether or not that becomes their reality though isn’t dependent only on our belief. Their own internal view of themselves affects their trajectory. We’ve all seen people with Down syndrome who did what they felt compelled to do, despite us parents not thinking it possible. That could come from climbing out of a crib unassisted to figuring out the wifi password, but it’s happened to most all of us, I think, that shock of seeing our child doing something we didn’t think they could.

The landscapes of vision, capacity and capability change with time and more players enter the field. Instead of just us parents and our kids, we have the additional involvement and integration of schools, community, culture, society. We have employers, employment, money, security, systems. We have a myriad of other elements to contend with as we grapple with our kid’s own vision, capacity, and capability.

We believe that our child – now a teen – is intelligent, personable, resourceful and focused. We are also aware that our teen has an intellectual disability and that their disability literally affects almost everything in their life.

We believe they are capable – we know they are capable! – and yet. How are we going to help our teen to understand that if she doesn’t figure out how to learn algebra, she’ll be designated to the segregated learning environment (aka, “fully self-contained class”) and will be picking up trash instead of learning (aka, “life skills”). How are we going to help our teen to learn Shakespeare when her school educational team hasn’t figured out how to modify her curriculum? How can we help our teen make friends when there is no system at place in her school to help kids connect, when even though our teen might be the only with Down syndrome, we know she’d likely make great friends with some of the other neurodiverse teens, but they are in their own world and she’s in hers and nary a bridge is to be found.

The Power of Assumption

The video uses the word, “Assume” instead of “Belief.” I’ve been talking all this time about belief because, frankly, that’s the word we usually use. That’s the word that on most of those kitten posters in the school office. But they are talking about assumption in the video, not belief. They are saying “ASSUME that I can, and MAYBE I will”.

What’s the difference between those words, assume and belief? You feel it, right?

Assuming something is to be sure of something. When you are assuming something, you don’t need proof, you are just sure of it. Believing is to have faith, trust and acceptance of something. The two words have very different feelings about them, don’t they? One feels more sure of itself, and the other, more hopeful.

When we assume that our teen with Down syndrome is going to do the same things we would assume our teen without Down syndrome does, it gives space for that to happen as matter of course. Like, it would be odd if it didn’t. We’ll assume that our teen with Down syndrome will learn algebra because we assume her brothers without Down syndrome will. We’ll assume that she will be interested in Dungeons and Dragons because everyone else in her family is. We’ll assume that she is a Trekkie until, as sadly happened, she tells us she is not, and actually “hates Star Trek.” 🙁

I’m going to assume she can, which will fuel my belief. And maybe she will.

PS

CoorDown invites everyone in the community to post videos along the theme “Assume That I Can” #AssumeThatICan

Ours is here:

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