The surprise announcement of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as John McCain's partner on the Rep. ticket has gotten many tongues in the special needs world wagging, even salivating.
Palin recently gave birth to baby Trig, who has Down syndrome. The potential for the tremendous exposure for the diagnosis and other special needs created by having a family in the White House raising a child with Down syndrome is too good to overlook. Here's my take:
As exciting and ground breaking as having such families represented in the White House would be, it should not be the key reason anyone votes any ticket into the most powerful office in the world. Nor should the fact she is a woman be the sole criteria.
Palin is also a staunch conservative, antiabortionist and lifetime member of the NRA. Do her political and personal values mesh with yours? Are you comfortable with her political experience?
Palin is about to seek a demanding office as second in command at a time when she faces the beginning of a challenging parenting journey, one which anyone who has parented a child with special needs knows, is often filled with tremendous challenges and rewards all its own. It's far too early in the parenting game to know how Palin would handle combining this new family challenge with the demanding role of VP.
What this attention-grabbing announcement can do, as it continues to do with spirited arguments over use of the R-word in Tropic Thunder, is to give the media and the rest of us, a terrific opportunity to generate intelligent, thoughtful discussion about challenges facing individuals and families with a wide range of special needs. It creates needed awareness for the overall cause.
Such valuable awareness and resulting conversation can help lead to lasting change in health care, education and equal access to valuable resources and services, decisions impacted at the highest level of government. That is the real beauty of this news and where I believe our focus should be.
We should not elect a baby to office, regardless of the potential for priceless, on-going special needs awareness- no matter how cute!
In my efforts to contribute to responsible media efforts that inform on this subject during this election-buzz time, I will be sharing key facts about Down syndrome, starting now (there's more in my book!). Above is a photo of my friends Gail Williamson, exc. director of the Down Syndrome Assoc. of Los Angeles (DSALA) & her talented, actor/son, Blair. Used with permission.
Did You Know?
Down syndrome occurs in
1 in every 733 live births?
For more information & inspiration, visit:
The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS): www.ndss.org
or: Heart & Halo Talent, a division of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA) www.dsala.org
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations