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Monday, October 15, 2012

I Don't Want Compassion for Kayla

Another article about another high school electing another student with Down syndrome to another Homecoming Court.

Despite what this article would have you believe - that it is a trend this football season to elect a student with Down syndrome to the Homecoming Court - it has been happening for years now. Yet there is still a need(?) to report it; to make a big deal out of the student body electing someone with Down syndrome to the Homecoming Court.

A quote from the article, after mentioning this 'trend' is that "...these displays of compassion are proof that people are accepting of differences."

You know what the definition of compassion is? "A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering."

So when I say I don't want compassion from Kayla's peers - I mean that I don't want them to feel so sorry for her great misfortune of being born w/Ds that to alleviate her suffering they will vote her Homecoming/ Prom Queen. I want genuine and mutual respect, admiration, and friendship from her same-age peers; not for them to feel like they're doing her some great big favor to make up for her having Ds.

And this, “By seeing people’s abilities, as opposed to their disabilities, we are creating an inclusive environment for all,” but they ARE still being seen by their DISabilities - just look at the title of the article: Homecoming crown for Down syndrome girl! She is being described as her very disability. And the fact that there is this article at all - celebrating her Homecoming crown; despite the fact she has Ds (that is the angle of the story as I read it.) The fact that these stories have to keep being reported on. Did the other members of the homecoming court have articles about them?

This isn't to take away from the joy and excitement of being crowned at Homecoming. Jasmine put herself out there and campaigned for it by making posters, giving out hand-shakes and necklaces. Good for her for going for it!

I know the alternative is worse - being excluded, mocked, bullied, made fun of - so by no means am I saying it is a bad thing to win the crown. But let's not marginalize the students with Ds by letting the rest of the student body hold them up as examples of compassionate cases. Genuinely include them throughout the school year - not just on this one big occasion of Homecoming and/or Prom, where the 'feel-good' story feels more like a 'pity' story (to me anyway).

My follow-up post explaining my thoughts on compassion vs acceptance.

Submitted this post as part of the DS Blog Hop:  post signature

22 comments:

krlr said...

That just nicely summed up my problem with the Homecoming crowns. It's nice, I get that, and certainly better than the alternative, as you said, but I have this sneaky paranoid feeling it's the pity vote. And/or "sorry we've been so mean to you" vote.

I also particularly did not care for THIS article - I don't know about her reading skills, but why was it necesary to mention the other student had to read her the poster? Why did it say "not knowing much about these [events]". Gah.

Did you see the article out of Kansas City? I liked that one because the other students were like, "Yeah, and?" No pity, they just liked the girl.

Jaida said...

I always have SUCH mixed feelings about these stories...similar to the ones where a teen with Ds is part of a sports team and they "get" to actually play at some point. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Kathleen said...

Hi there... Fabulous blog post. Have a wonderful week :) Wasn't sure if you say this - http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/espn-airs-the-story-of-a-dad-who-wanted-to-abort-his-down-syndrome-daughter

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Beautifully said.

Kristi said...

Very well said!!!

Nan said...

Hey, we don't have homecoming here and neither do we elect (or whatever) kings and queens for prom. so, one battle down! I too hate these stories. Gag me with a spoon! (that sure dates me). I always wanted to post something about this, but it seemed such an American thing. I'm glad you did!!!

Angel Read said...

I can totally understand that... If ANY person gets elected to Homecoming king or queen, it should be because of who they are, not an act of pity because of a special need they have. While some kids might just be excited at being included, others may realize that the other students are just trying to be kind, with the implication that this is the only way the student would ever be elected!

ahoy.jenni said...

Well spoken, totally agree. Often times it's the journalists at fault, putting whatever angle on the story, in this case the compassion angle.
I recently read an article in a major Australian newspaper, describing a person with DS as " suffering with DS" (yeah really bad)!

Becca said...

Ah yes, I am always so conflicted by these stories, too. Nice and everything, but necessary? I don't want people to feel sorry for Samantha. If she's voted Prom Queen, it has to be because they truly, truly love her and believe she should represent the school as such. I, personally, was never into the idea of prom or anything. I guess I just wasn't part of the "popular" crowd and definitely considered myself a strict non-conformist. So the idea of Prom Queen or King is all pretty shallow to me anyway. Maybe I'll feel differently when it's my kid shopping for a dress, picking a date, etc.

tvcorners said...

i like your theme blue color is looking cool :)

Angel said...

Totally agree. I feel torn. But I also feel a lot of time it is the reporter using language that taints the story too. Hopefully, these kids just like and accept their classmates!

Vince said...

While not the end goal , A compassionate environment is a prerequisite to an inclusive environment. This trend is progress!

Anonymous said...

it was my parent's generation that 'hid' their children with disabilities. Inclusion wasn't even at the edges of their conscienceness. We've come far in a generation and a half- things could definitely be better- in the mean time- keep exposing the younger generations to their peers with differences....the wording will evolve with the kids

Anonymous said...

How does Kayla feel about being included? even if it by sympathy, or compassion? Excited? Happy? As though she belongs? Included? Appreciated?

Chromosomally Enhanced said...

Thank you for this post...I have been mulling over this issue in my head for sum time now...I am not a fan of this and am not I will accept this for Maddie...I want no one to treat her different because she is perfect...her self esteem will come from us...and hopefully sum acceptant will come also...great post..smiles

bah7207 said...

I understand your point, however, as the mother of an 11 year old son with DS, it is difficult to find "genuine" compassion among our children's peers at times. Sure, they are accepting and inclusive up to a certain age level, mostly on behalf of tender hearted parents, but many times the aside glances that are often cast by strangers, or the "pity" feeling causes some to veer away. These moments in the life of any child facing challenges help all of us to become more aware, more accepting of them. It may be more for US than for them. It increases our need to be accepting of a very diverse spectrum of challenges that unfortunately is not getting smaller within our world. It is never wrong or incorrect to allow a child to feel on top of the world! Sometimes it's all they have. That one moment, smile, look might be that child's ONLY positive moment. Celebrate and enjoy it, no matter who inspires it.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your blog & agree. I lost my sister "Chrissie" over 2 yrs. ago. I miss her so much. I never thought of her as handicapped. She was just "Chrissie". She grew up in a time where people weren't so accepting of DS. People were so mean, especially kids. She was made fun of & stared at. I got in alot of fights as a kid, defending her. I am so glad that things are different now. Just wish it would of happened sooner.

Crittle said...

I hardly get the time to comment, but I'm always reading. And I both loved and appreciated this post. Just wanted to let you know.

TUC said...

Preach it! And thanks for doing so.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

Yes I love that children with special needs are getting these honours, but not always the reasons why x

Rachel Douglas said...

Pity gets you nowhere. This is one of the first rules we must learn when we join the world of disability. Keeping our advocacy groups from using the pity card is the next lesson.

Sophia said...

Pity is dangerous. It gets you nowhere. The definition- a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering is wrong. Its not "compassion" its pity. The writer should be ashamed disguising pity as "compassion".

Why are journalists in this day and age still using outdated words? This isn't a "inclusion" "feel good" story, its a pity lets woe the girl with DS one.