Children’s Hospital Boston geneticist Brian Skotko, MD, MPP wrote a Thriving blog in response to a hurtful article that circulated throughout the Internet, in which a writer at GQ likened poor fashion sense to “Style Down Syndrome.”
As a member of Children’s Down Syndrome Program, and brother to a person with Down syndrome, Skotko was outraged at the insensitivity of the original article and vowed to do all he could to raise awareness around the negative impacts these types of slurs have.
Good news. He was successful.
Shortly after publishing, Skotko’s blog went viral, gaining mass attention on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, as well as mainstream media. In less than 24 hours, Skotko’s Thriving piece became one of Children’s most widely read blogs of all time, created a lot of dialogue on the subject of insensitive language and was referenced in the Washington Post, Boston Business Journal, Boston Magazine, the Boston Globe and lead to an interview on Boston’s Fox News affiliate.
“I have been impressed–although not surprised–by the speed in which the Down syndrome community has responded to this hurtful language from GQ magazine,” says Skotko. ” Whether by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or blog, Americans across the country are shouting loud and clear that people with Down syndrome deserve our respect and admiration.”
On July 31, Beverly Beckham, a Boston Globe columnist, wrote an Op-Ed piece referencing the GQ story, as well as Skotko’s blog.
Dr. Brian Skotko, a specialist in the Down Syndrome Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, whose sister Kristin has Down syndrome, wrote a funny/poignant piece called “Mock My Pants, Not My Sister’’ for the Children’s Hospital blog, which in two weeks had more than 82,000 hits.
Both the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress and the National Down Syndrome Society wrote to GQ. And even the mainstream media weighed in. The Boston Herald. The Boston Globe. The Washington Post. Fox TV. All were dismayed at Thompson’s words.
This is the good part, that we live in a community that cares enough to speak out.
But this is the bad part: That someone like Thompson, a writer with a paying job, thought a swipe at the disabled, which was inaccurate and cruel and reinforced stereotypes, was clever. And that his editors approved it.
According to GQ’s publisher, the website’s editor and Thompson have personally apologized to anyone who has contacted them about this matter. But the magazine has yet to make a public apology.
Skotko has asked that it devote some of its pages to showcasing people with Down syndrome so its readers can learn the truth about those it maligned. But to date he has not received a reply.
My granddaughter Lucy, who just turned 8, has Down syndrome. Before she was born, I might have read Thompson’s mean-spirited words and simply thought he’s a jerk. And that might have been it. But now I know Lucy. And because of Lucy, I know Gracie and Connor and Jack and Isaiah and Julian and Bobby.
And what I know is this: I know these children climb Mount Everest every day. Nothing is easy for them. Reading. Writing. Counting. Riding a bike. Speaking. Climbing the monkey bars. Making friends.
I know how hard they work and I know how hard they try, and I know how they keep on trying, when most people without that extra chromosome would quit.
I watch Lucy try to put a penny in a gumball machine. It takes her many tries. She stomps her foot. She stomps both feet. She moans. She mutters.
But she doesn’t give up. Even if she walks away for a while, she comes back and keeps on trying.
This is what I would show John Thompson if I could. Lucy working at something. And then he would know that the real “little extra’’ that people with Down syndrome have is persistence.
And that it doesn’t ruin things. It makes things better.
To read her entire story, please click here.