One of the great tragedies in our world today is the systematic effort to “eradicate” those born with Down syndrome and other disabilities through abortion (usually government-funded and supported). Iceland currently is leading the pack, with an abortion rate at nearly 100 percent of babies with Down syndrome. Some justify this extermination attempt in the name of mercy. In their minds, they are relieving suffering, both of the child and of the family he or she will be a part of.
However, “facts are stubborn things,” as John Adams once said, and the facts do not support this view of incessant suffering among those with Down syndrome and their families. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Medical Genetics found that self-reported happiness among those with Down syndrome was at a staggering 99 percent.
Compare this to the 2016 annual Gallup poll which found that the happiest country in the world was Paraguay, with a reported 84 percent of happy people there. Statistically, no group is happier than those people with Down syndrome.
But it there is more to it than that. Studies also show these benefits extend to the families of those with Down syndrome. Divorce rates are lower in these families compared to families whose children have other birth defects or no disabilities. Parents of children with Down syndrome overwhelmingly report they are happy with the decision they made to have their child, and nearly 80 percent of them say their outlook on life is more positive because of their children.
Among children who have siblings with Down syndrome, the vast majority report that their relationship with their sibling is positive and enhancing, and nearly 90 percent of them say they are a better person because of their sibling. So not only are those with Down syndrome happier than anyone else, but they make their families stronger and happier as well.
I don’t know exactly why that is, and I cannot speak to anyone else’s experience, but I have found all of the above to be true in my life. A little more than a year ago, my wife and I decided to adopt a sweet little boy with Down syndrome and autism. Honestly, we were scared. Although we are the parents of four other wonderful children, we didn’t have any real experience caring for someone with special needs. But we felt the assurance that all would be well and that this was the path that was right for our family. The experience has been eye-opening, to say the least.
Of course, it is difficult at times. There are many things he can’t do for himself. For example, he is 4 years old and just started walking. He also can’t drink well and has to have most of his fluids through a tube. He is nonverbal, so we are teaching him simple signs to communicate. He will never be able to live on his own, so he will be with us our entire lives. But because of him, we will never be the same.
His smile lights up the room. Everyone who meets him loves him instantly because he doesn’t judge; he just gives love unconditionally. It is impossible not to smile and feel better about life when he gives you his big hug and kiss (and he gives them generously). His brother and sisters absolutely adore him, and they even argue over who gets to take care of him when Mom and Dad die (hopefully a long time in the future).
We have grown closer as a couple and a family and become less selfish as we serve him. Really, he is the one serving us. I can see God’s light in his bright, shining eyes and hear God’s voice with every melodious laugh. He never ceases to amaze me every day, and I am sure my experience is being repeated a thousand times over across the world by those lucky enough to have someone like my son in their lives.
We are all seeking happiness in this life, and it is ironic that as a society we are killing those who have found that secret. What we are seeking, people like my son have already found. They have much to teach us if we are but willing to learn. Clearly, the world is a better place with them here, and we should be doing all we can to allow them to have their chance at life. God knows we need more of their goodness in this world.