Last month, we told you about Julie Willson, a photographer who paid beautiful tribute to her late sister who'd had Down syndrome with a photo shoot featuring adorable kids with the disorder. She has since invited the families of the children in the photos to share their stories of what it's really like to raise a child with Down syndrome. In her short documentary "There's Nothing Down With Down Syndrome," Willson, her family, and 11 other families of kids with Down syndrome talk about how their kids have enriched their lives.
When Dina was born, doctors encouraged her parents to send her to a home for people with mental disabilities. She says despite the fact that people with Down syndrome can live independently, parents today are often encouraged to abort when genetic tests show a fetus will have Down syndrome.
"Luckily," she told A Plus, "I know how much of a positive impact having a person with Down syndrome can have on a family, but I'm concerned that some people would blindly take a doctors opinion without ever knowing what they would be giving up."
When asked how things have changed since her sister was born 40 years ago, Dina said parents have access to many more resources thanks to the internet. Additionally, she said the life expectancy of someone with Down syndrome has doubled since the 1980s, from 30-35 years to over 60.
"The school experience for those with Down syndrome has changed drastically as well," she added. "Thanks to inclusion, kids with Down syndrome are able to get an education in a regular classroom. I know many kids with Down syndrome who have graduated high school and have heard stories of some who have even gone on to receive their college degree."
Willson says she will soon produce a full documentary featuring each family's complete story. "My plan is to get this video to hospitals and doctors offices throughout the country so they share with families who are finding out their child has Down syndrome. I hope this video can help mothers and fathers, family members and friends understand the love that child will give in the purest form."
"Down syndrome or any other disability for that matter should never define a person or a family," she said. "Love and compassion should."