How to Talk to Your Child’s Peers About Down Syndrome

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When I was 18 weeks pregnant with my son, Charlie, I learned he had Down syndrome. Over the course of my pregnancy, I grew accustomed to a much more heightened sensitivity to the “R” word and jokes people made at the expense of people with disabilities.

Nowadays, I can bat down the use of the “R” word with my eyes closed and one pinky on the tweet button.

But since Charlie’s infancy, I’ve consistently faltered with simple, sincere questions I don’t feel prepared to address.

Take this story, for example. One characteristic of babies with Down syndrome is tongue thrusting — almost like they’re licking ice cream, almost constantly. I had read about it, but until I noticed Charlie’s own tongue thrusting as he lay in his NICU isolette, it didn’t occur to me that my child may have that characteristic.

We’re used to it now, enough that I forget it might stand out to others. When a kindergartner first asked me why Charlie was sticking his tongue out, I was not proud of my reply. I said, very simply, “Well, he must be thinking about ice cream!”

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