So the camp that Angela is at right now is only for older kids and young adults up to age 22) who have Down syndrome. This is when it's cool to have DS!
Some people don't like to talk to their kids about having DS. I'm not exactly sure what their reasoning is (nor have I asked. If anyone here reading doesn't like to, can you explain it? I'd like to understand.) For my kids who have asthma, we always explained it and they've always understood why they had to take medication, and why they had trouble participating in some sports. For my son who has Tourette syndrome, he's always had a name for what was such a visible thing for him, and what caused people to stare at him, and what got him teased.
Angela has always known she has DS, just like she's always known she has brown hair and eyes. When she was really little, before we said anything to her about DS, she would pick out toddlers in her picture books that had DS and say, "Me, me!" as if she was seeing a picture of herself. I would say, "That girl does look a lot like you, doesn't she. I don't know that little girl's name though." and then we'd move on. When she got a little older I'd add, "She does look like you doesn't she. She has Down syndrome just like you do." and then we'd move on. I didn't want to ignore the fact that Angela was seeing the similarities.
When Angela got older and into preschool, I thought it was interesting that the kids with DS tended to gravitate toward each other, and the same happened in Special Olympics too. All these years later I still see it. We don't talk about DS very much with Angela, but once in awhile she will ask about one of her friends. The conversations usually go something like this:
"Mom. My friend Karly has Down syndrome."
"Yes, Karly has Down syndrome."
"Sarah. Does Sarah have Down syndrome?"
"No. Sarah doesn't have Down syndrome."
And so we talk about how her friends who have DS have eyes that look a lot like hers, and sometimes her friends with DS talk a lot like her, or maybe smile a lot like her. And for awhile, she gets it.
But driving to camp yesterday was one long lesson in DS.
"Is Adam going to camp? Adam has Down syndrome."
"Yes, Adam has Down syndrome, so he CAN go to camp, but I don't know if his mom signed him up."
"Oh." .......looking out the window.....
"Is Austin my boyfriend going to camp?"
"Yes, Austin will be at camp."
"Austin has Down syndrome, right?"
"Yes, Austin has Down syndrome, so he can go to this camp."
"Is Laura going to camp?"
"No, Laura doesn't have Down syndrome. She won't be going to this camp."
"Oh....that's too bad. Poor Laura....(pretending to write a letter) Dear Laura, I'm sorry you don't have Down syndrome, Your friend, Angela."
"I have Down syndrome. And Karly....and Adam....and Zack....and Tanya....all have Down syndrome. All going to Down syndrome camp. SO COOL!"
So you see, having Down syndrome is very cool!
But next month she goes to a different camp (which is four hours the OTHER direction!) which is for kids with Cognitive Impairments in general, not just DS. For that we just say that any of her friends can go! LOL (though non of her friends go, because it's out of state and somehow when you drive 4 hours out of state it is more difficult than driving 4 hours "up North"!)