This month the disability community is a buzz over the new vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party, Sarah Palin. Mrs. Palin is the governor of Alaska, but—more to the point—her fifth child, Trig, has Down syndrome.
Will Mrs. Palin prove to be a champion for families of kids with special needs? Pundits on both sides of the aisle are already making the case as to whether she will help or hurt the cause of those with disabilities.
While I have my own political slant, I am not sure what role the vice president would have in passing laws for or against those with disabilities. Personally, I think it would be great to see Mrs. Palin as vice president, regardless of her congressional leveraging capabilities. To me, it would be a big plus to see a family dealing with a special need in the public eye. With Mrs. Palin as VP, the nation would have the tremendous learning opportunity of watching five-month-old Trig mature and grow.
At five months old, if your child is in good health, his care may be similar to any other infant. My son was easier than most. Because he had cerebral palsy, we could leave him in one spot and he wouldn’t move. Even as a toddler, he couldn’t get into much trouble. But, as he grew, he began to fall behind other children during playtime; it was tougher for him to explore the world than it was for other kids his age. Life became more difficult for him—and for us.
I want to see the Palin family raise their child in front of all of us. How will they deal with school and therapy and all the other issues that are on the horizon? How will Trig’s siblings help out? Will they struggle with the extra attention that’s directed at Trig ?
Most of all, I think it will give hope to those who have received a diagnosis of a special need in their unborn child. Mrs. Palin is someone they can look at and say, “Maybe I can do this, too!”
According to a May 9, 2007, article in The New York Times, about 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis choose to have an abortion.
Seeing someone else go through what you are going through can bring hope to your situation. Maybe women who see the Palin family won’t be so quick to abort .
No matter what Mrs. Palin’s current politics are on the subject of disabilities, as Trig grows, Mrs. Palin will grow to appreciate the unique trials and frustrations within the families of children with special needs. When my son was born, my wife and I had no clue about disability issues or that we would have to push for what our child needed.
The Palins strike me as people who love their children. And as they raise their youngest child, they’ll begin to understand “the fight”—something that all parents of children with special needs come to know. They will begin to see what we see. The hope is that they will have the influence to relate that experience to those who can make a difference.
No matter what your politics are, if you are the parent of a child with special needs, that has got to make you smile.