You could still see Noah's tan lines, so it's not like his parents just hid him away from people and inside before he came to the orphanage. He had arrived in the foster home just before our trip to China. He could walk and was even learning to feed himself, healthy, developing. His parents obviously hadn't neglected him while they had him.
So why in the world would he be abandoned to an orphanage at 18 months old?
In these Chinese communities, Down syndrome it isn’t always recognized until later in a child's development. They told me this is what probably happened to Noah. At 18 months old, his parent would’ve been told he had the syndrome and that was it: abandonment.
But why? He was developing so normally (which I think is because his parents were treating him normally instead of acting out of a "he's-not-normal" mentality).
If you want to have a Down syndrome child in China, you’re on your own.
When it comes to Emma, we’ve been blessed to have governmental support in physical therapy, speech therapy, and academic scholarships.
In China, there’s no support for people with Down syndrome. (In fact, the government puts out ads telling parents terminating their child is painless and glamorous). Today I was told about a woman who wants to have her child with Down syndrome, but she can’t find a single physician who will deliver her baby.
Plus, Chinese parents still move in with their child once they get old. Parents don’t want their child to have a disability because then they can’t care for them once they are old.
The problem is complex. Its no wonder Noah’s parents dropped him off (even after loving him for a year and a half); Down syndrome is marketed as a death sentence and the end of all hope.
But we’re not defeated. America was still institutionalizing people with disabilities just 70 years ago. Disability discrimination is a massive problem, but not one that can’t be overcome.
Today, Elvia (our local translator and friend) posted this on China’s version of social media:
"We need more Emma in China to explain what potential the Down syndrome babies can have and what they can do."
And get this – Elvia’s volunteering to translate the documentary into Chinese because she “needs to show the university students and workers” so they can understand everything people with disabilities can achieve, too.
Change doesn’t happen all at once. But I truly believe as we all do our part to shine a light on disabilities, it will happen.