As the mother of an 8-year old with Down syndrome, I sometimes get annoyed by headlines trumpeting the everyday accomplishments of kids with intellectual disabilities. Heart warming stories of the teenager with Down syndrome who shot a three-pointer for the basketball team, or ran the field for a touchdown, or was voted Homecoming King or Queen sometimes feel like distractions from the prejudice people with intellectual disabilities face in our schools and in our society at large. Moreover, for every child who receives the applause of friends and family (and the wider world of the internet), countless others do not achieve something that commends praise. I want to uphold the intrinsic value of all the kids with intellectual disabilities, especially the ones who don’t make the headlines.
Yet I found myself cheering for Hema Ramaswamy, a 23-year old woman with Down syndrome who recently performed her coming-of-age ceremony, which involved two hours of dancing and nearly a decade of practice.