Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Redemption of Ignorance

As kids, we were aware that my first cousin's son was different. We were generally 'shooed' away from him, although I can remember him smiling at us.
I don't believe that I ever spoke to him. He stayed at home with his mother, and never attended school. How lonely he must have been. This sounds so cruel (and was), but it wasn't considered so at the time; no one was intentionally cruel to him, no one made fun of him. Due to our ignorance (and that of our society), he was quite totally ignored.
Although Down syndrome was first described in 1866, the disorder wasn't identified as a chromosome 21 trisomy until 1959, when I was 12 years old. Simply put, this means that people with Downs have at least a part of a 21st chromosome.
Individuals with Down syndrome tend to have a lower than average cognitive ability, often ranging from mild to moderate learning disabilities.
Although I learned about Downs over the years, it was purely intellectual knowledge. It took a child to educate me. It took a child to make me, half a century later, cry for my cousin; not for his condition, but for our ignorance and inattention and for his exclusion.

Meet Riley LaBorde, the daughter of Alena & Gerard LaBorde. Riley is a precious little girl, and has a wonderful mom and dad. Here are a couple of Riley's Easter photos.


  1. Riley is adorable. Her parents must be proud of her.

    I. too, had a cousin with Down's Syndrome. Our experience was quite different from yours. Bobby was the last of ten children, born about the same time as I was. His mother was one of the wisest and finest people I ever knew. He attended all the family gatherings and interacted with everyone. He was loving, affectionate, and extremely polite, opening doors and car doors for the girls and ladies.

    He died in his fifties of one of several maladies that are associated with Down's Syndrome, but he was a wonderful person. There was not much available for him in the way of schooling at that time. That was the sad part. But he was definitely welcomed as part of the family.

  2. Mimi - the schooling is so important. Riley is in a great program. Here is the link if you would like to check it out.

  3. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do. My brother David is autistic and grew up in the house as you describe; he seems to be starting to talk more now, but it is hard because of misunderstanding on both sides sometimes.

    That is an adorable baby.


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