My scientific brain decided to test a theory that sometimes Ella gets special treatment just because she has Down syndrome. Our experience at the fair (see prior blog post if you’re not up to speed on what I’m talking about) is just one example of the magical powers of Down syndrome; magnetism. When a child with Down syndrome appears, strangers are drawn to them and offer gifts of gold (fish), frankincense (scented bubbles), and myrrh (flavored lip balm).

When Ella was a baby, before I understood the UPside of Down, I would have expected people to treat Ella badly just because she has Down syndrome. I was caught up in the myths and darkness of Down syndrome and worried excessively about how Ella would be viewed by people who judged her on the extra chromosome. Few are any actual examples of negativity directed to Ella.

The St. Louis Balloon Festival gave me unlimited test subjects for my experiment, and a glass of wine gave me courage. The following table below summarizes what I observed:

Test subject
Man selling lemonade We’re teaching Ella to order at restaurants.She politely said “I’d like a lemonade, please.” Would he just give it to her since I was standing a distance away? Nope. “That’ll be 3.50$, Ma’am.” I hate to be called Ma’am.Score 1 for no special treatment.
Lady at corn dog stand Ella cut in front of a long line because she needed a straw to drink the lemonade purchased from another vendor. Score! The lady handed over a straw and not one person in line grumbled.
Kettle corn man One sampling is expected.What if Ella grabs a couple of fists-full? The man didn’t seem to mind at all. Probably because I made a 10.00$ purchase.
Couple with mammoth dog It’s a given kids will want to pet this dog.But how long is acceptable? After 10 minutes of doggy hugs and kisses, the couple remained un-annoyed. But I was bored and out of wine. Experiment aborted.
Bubbles in crowd Purchased motorized bubble gun. Allowed Ella to run through crowd spraying bubbles. Kids, and even some adults, pranced about with index finger pointed, jabbing at bubbles. Bubbles are just plain fun. Need a second experiment.
Bubbles on bench Grumpy-looking woman sat down on our park bench. Allowed Ella to point bubble gun directly at her. Grumpy lady didn’t smile, speak, or move. Instead, she glared at Ella .Score 1 for grumpy lady and no special treatment.
Souvenir stand Perused the trinkets as Ella expressed her desire to have every single one. Would she get another freebie? No luck this time. Then I had to drag Ella away and feel like bad mommy for not buying something.
Man with  iPod dock playing some tunes Ella stood directly in front of him and danced while shouting “Hey You! Watch me!” He applauded and gave her a bottle of water.Score 1 for special treatment or for Ella’s dancing abilities?
Line for  more wine Would anyone let me cut ahead in line since Ella was whining about being tired of waiting? Ok, ok…I know I shouldn’t have tried to play the “I have a kid with special needs” card just to get wine. Call me horrible.


I know, a true scientific experiment this was not. It doesn’t even qualify for a study. It was really just an observance of human behavior. And it was a fun way to spend an evening. I get a kick out of watching strangers interact with Ella. The best way to erase the negative and incorrect perceptions of DS is to let people learn from our kids. I can spend an hour giving a lecture to physicians trying to convince them kids with DS can be healthy, smart, and really just like any other kid. Ella can disprove all the myths of DS in 2 minutes flat, just by approaching a stranger and carrying on a conversation. And you can see the stranger transform in that brief time from hesitant (Will I be able to understand this child? Can she even speak? Will she attach herself to me in a bear hug because she’s so loving?) to perplexed (I just told her my name is Bartholomew and she correctly spelled it out loud – maybe she doesn’t have “Downs”) to relaxed and pleased with themselves (Gee- this kid is just a kid. Why the heck did I think DS was such a bad thing all these years?).

It’s not possible to “prove” my theory that sometimes kids with Down syndrome get special treatment. It’s not even important. What is important is for new parents to have more examples of why it’s so cool to have a kid with Down syndrome. No one tells you when they hand over the diagnosis along with a baby that someday you’ll be strolling amidst 30 hot air balloons, third glass of wine in hand, while your kid with super-powers changes the world. No one tells you what a more relaxed, laid-back, and fun person you will be. Not one single source (except here at the UPside) reports that when you have a child with Down syndrome, you get free stuff.

So if you are a new parent reading this, take a break from all the bad stuff you’ve heard. Stop worrying about the “what-ifs.” Start thinking about the UPside.

2 Responses to “Special Treatment for Special Kids? The Experiment.”

  1. kim burlison says:

    My son’s Teachergave me your name to look up. I’m so thankful!

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