Meet Aiden. A free-spirited young man with a charming smile and an ornery streak a mile long. Aiden loves Legos, blocks, and way too much TV. He loves to help in the kitchen- cleaning and baking are his favorite past times. He is kind to those who are hurt or sad. He is very opinionated and can be as stubborn as a mule sometimes.
His eyes are hazel and his hair is blonde. He loves noodles of every kind. He is a huge fan of eggs with cheese. As a matter of fact, he often raids the refrigerator for cheese and recently tried to pin it on “Pinky Pie” from My Little Pony by leaving her on the shelf of the refrigerator next to the opened bag of shredded cheese. He dislikes rice and mashed potatoes (This still baffles me- who doesn’t like mashed potatoes?). He prefers ground beef over steak and bananas over apples. He adores all things pumpkin!!
Just like you and just like me, Aiden is a product of his DNA- the building blocks of his inheritance. All of the things that make him who he is, that shape his likes and dislikes, the way he looks, even the shape of his smile and the sparkle in his eyes are part of a beautiful genetic pattern that is uniquely his.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a biomolecule that holds the blueprint for how living organisms are built. DNA is made out of two long, twisted strands that contain complementary genetic information (like a picture and its negative). A gene is a segment of DNA that is passed down from parents to children and confers a trait to the offspring. Genes are organized and packaged in units called “chromosomes.” Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. One set of chromosomes for each pair comes from a person’s mother, and the other set of chromosomes comes from the father.
-GeneEd “DNA, Genes and Chromosomes”
22 of Aiden’s 23 chromosomes are neatly and uniquely paired copies of two.
One of his chromosomes, the 21st to be precise, has three copies.
Most cases of Down syndrome result from trisomy 21, which means each cell in the body has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two copies.
We call this Down syndrome. It is a name attributed to this unique chromosomal difference. That is all it is. Down syndrome does not define or describe my son. It is not a label to throw in front of his name. As a matter of fact, if you do the math, it is a very small fraction of the entire “blueprint” that makes up who my son is.
It would be easy for me to sit and list some of the “issues” that are often part of a Down syndrome diagnosis. I could rattle of the common delays, potential medical issues, and so forth, but really is that how you would want to be defined?
As a mother of two sons who happen to have an extra chromosome, I really want to ask you to consider looking at my son for who he is, not what he lacks. I want you to define him by his amazing abilities, not by his perceived disabilities.
After all, who wants to be “labeled” by their struggles or challenges?
Let me ask you, “What Color are Your Genes?” What is it about you that makes you wonderfully unique?” Is it your fiery red hair or your crazy obsession with math? Is it your athletic prowess or your joyful laugh? Maybe it’s the gift of creativity or the way you can whip up magic in the kitchen?
My son’s DNA was woven together in the most beautiful pattern that is his life.
So is yours.
Let’s just marvel at that for a minute!!
Let’s marvel at our differences and celebrate them!