In our local paper today there was a great story about two young people with Down syndrome who were named Prom King and Queen at their school.
I've thought a lot of this. When I first read about a few of these stories, I wondered about the sincerity of the kids casting the votes, and I thought it was a fluke - one particularly kind group of kids in a hard, ugly society.
As this article points out, though, including children with Down syndrome changes things for the kids with Down syndrome, and it changes things for their peers. Everything I've read about anyone with DS in the news seems to say that the other kids find the Kings and Queens with DS extraordinary. I've read so many times "I wish I were more like he/she is."
Then I start to wonder if the typical kids are so tired, so worn out of having to be "popular" and "fit in" that a vote for the child with DS isn't a sympathy vote - it is a vote against what teenagers are pressured to be and what they are pressured to value. Maybe a better way to say it is they aren't feeling sorry for her so they voted for her, they are feeling sorry for THEMSELVES that they live in such a cut-throat shallow peer group, that they rebel against it.
Face it, in any school the "popular kids" are almost as small a minority as the "special needs kids." Sounds to me like everyone in the middle is getting together and telling the kids at the top of the social pile that they are no more special than anyone else. I like that.
I asked my guidance counselor from High School (who had just told me how great our districts programs for children with different needs were) where the kids with Down syndrome were when I was in High School in the Early 80s? They were in institutions, or in completely segregated classrooms. At that point they didn't have rights to be in public, go to Kroger, go bowling, have jobs.
It is much easier to think about Violette's future when I read these stories and know that our world, while still not perfect, at least has more pockets of acceptance for differences! Who knows - maybe someday SHE will be Queen (which given that I didn't even go to my Prom seems an amazing concept to me!)
Here is the Story about the Loveland King And Queen.
And a few others:
This one is from last year, but she's too darling not to post!
Long Live the King and Queen!