Itâ€™s easy to oversimplify the reality of developmental and cognitive disabilities when weâ€™re trying to empathize with someone. With the best of intentions we say things like â€śGod only gives a burden like this to those strong enough to bear it,â€ť â€śShe must by such a gift to youâ€ť and â€śShe must teach you so much.â€ť We pass over the challenges that confront the families of persons with developmental disabilities and the daily commitment of resources, energy and time that are required of them.
Yet there is still truth in those well-meant oversimplifications. I know. Rachel Diane, my 18-year-old granddaughter, has Down syndrome. Rachel is a gift to her parents, who have learned patienceâ€”patience with their daughter as well as patience with a culture thatâ€™s painfully slow to understand people with developmental disabilities and to provide them with opportunities for a full, productive life.