More inclusion, less ableism

Recently I saw a photo of yet another young woman with Down syndrome who has become a model, in this case for Victoria’s Secret. “Do you think she’s had cosmetic surgery on her eyes?” I asked my friend who happens to be an eye doctor. “I was wondering the same thing,” he said before asking, […]

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Making masks optional in Akron schools was the right decision

Like a lot of children, my 9-year-old daughter, Lyra, relies on routine to make life predictable and easier for us both. Conversely, changes in her routines can understandably take a minute.   When I tell Lyra on the first warm spring morning that she needn’t put on a hat, scarf and mittens when getting ready for […]

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Where will we be a year from now?

Is this what you expected life to look like a year ago?  When my children were all young, the changes I noticed from year to year were often typical milestones: first steps, potty training, starting school, riding bikes.   In those labor-intensive years coated with more body fluids than I care to recount, raising children felt like my […]

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Try for a lighter, more meaningful Christmas

Shortly after the Thanksgiving leftovers have been polished off, holiday stress begins its annual escalation.  This year the inevitable pressure to find the perfect holiday gifts seems accentuated, given the supply shortages caused by the ongoing pandemic.  University of Minnesota professor Joel Waldfogel, who wrote “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays,” claims that […]

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WWII soldier’s dilemma then and now

For several years, I’ve had biweekly dinners with my friend Bascom Hill Biggers III. He turned 99 this past summer, but let me correct the image you may have of a doddering old man: That same week he danced a jig outside the Bureau of Motor Vehicles after renewing his driver’s license.  Raised in Atlanta, Bascom […]

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One of life’s hardest moments

When she was about 75, my grandma sat for a headshot at the nearby JCPenney photo studio. She sent 5-by-8-inch prints to her four sons and me, her eldest grandchild, with notes telling us, “This is the photo I want at my funeral.” At the time, I was in my mid-20s and found Grandma’s funeral […]

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Adjusting expectations for child with disability

Effective parenting requires a tailored approach for each child’s unique personality. But when children have a diagnosis that makes them irrevocably different from their parents, the best approach isn’t always readily evident. In his book “Far from the Tree,” Andrew Solomon combines research and interviews with parents and their children who have a variety of […]

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Ohio’s abortion law has nothing to do with protecting people with Down syndrome

Ohio’s Down syndrome abortion ban will not reduce the termination rates of fetuses prenatally diagnosed with the condition.   Neither will it inform sectors of society — including expectant parents, educators and heath care professionals — what it means to have Down syndrome today, something far different than when infants with Down syndrome were overwhelmingly institutionalized, […]

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Value of Akron-Summit County Library is priceless

Carl Sagan once said, “Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom. But reading is still the path.” Today, libraries still provide materials and programs to encourage literacy, but they also provide many other significant services to communities, including, but […]

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The only constant in life is change

This is the fifth year in which I have shared with Akron Beacon Journal readers stories about my five children and our lives.  I have two batches of offspring: my now-adult sons, Claude, Hugo and Jules, from a previous marriage, and my caboose troupe, Leif and Lyra. The father of the last two, Max, has […]

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Spring holds promise of positive change

The arrival of the first warm, sunny days at the end of winter feel full of pleasant promises. Friends, and even strangers in the grocery parking lots, are compelled to comment, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” The renewal of existing gardens and plans for new plants and even new beds are, of course, investments in the […]

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Talking with children about death

Today, many Americans live until their 30s or 40s before experiencing the death of a close family member or friend. The advent of antibiotics and vaccines in the early- and mid-20th century substantially decreased death rates while increasing life expectancy. And in the past 50 years, advances in medicine have grown exponentially, each development laying […]

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Love for winter doesn’t melt

My first four babies wore cloth diapers, which I washed weekly and hung on a line in the backyard. The singular satisfaction of seeing stains disappear after a few hours in the bright sun is both simple and immeasurable. I feel similarly when the sun melts the residual snow on sidewalks I’ve shoveled. From the chair at […]

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Loving children when it’s hard

When I was 16, my father and stepmother told my two sisters and me that as much as they loved their children — they’d die for us — they loved each other more, that their love had only grown in the dozen years they’d been together. Eight years later, my dad moved to Arizona, divorced […]

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Pandemic pauses family traditions, not thanks

Every August, as predictable as summer fruit ripening, my three eldest sons begin to announce, “I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving.” For more than 20 years, we’ve made the 450-mile journey to Charlevoix, Michigan, for the November holiday. My stepmother has lived in the same 950-square-foot house near Lake Michigan since 1972. She and her […]

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COVID interrupts valued friendship

“I waited on Maureen O’Hara at the MGM commissary. She was an observant Catholic and didn’t eat meat on Fridays, so we’d save a plate of chicken and she’d come by after midnight.” I’ve written before about Bascom, who became family through my relationship with Max, and my bi-weekly dates with this nonagenarian Southern gentleman. […]

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Biobank dedicated to Down syndrome research a bright spot in 2020

Days after our daughter Lyra was born, my partner and I received her karyotype, or snapshot of her chromosomes. It showed she has a third 21st chromosome, which causes Down syndrome. We then spent the next few years rigorously studying the reality of a DS diagnosis — which can be fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking. Along […]

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Wrong Answer: Akron says yes to sports, no to in-person classes for students with disabilities

The Akron Beacon Journal’s front-page headline on Tuesday read, “Why are all these parents so happy? First day of school brings joy in Summit County.” Unfortunately, that was not the case in the county’s largest district, Akron Public Schools. Initially, APS announced a blended program for the fall. Pre-school through third grade students would have […]

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Novel solutions needed to educate all kids during COVID-19 pandemic

When COVID-19 rates began soaring earlier this summer, my gut told me Akron Public Schools would not return to in-person classes this fall. The sudden shift to online learning this past spring caused many students to fall behind. I figured at the time that schools would do catch-up instruction in the fall, which is to […]

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Unemployment shuffle during pandemic is lesson in patience

Shortly after the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed at the end of March, my two eldest sons and I applied for unemployment, which, under current conditions, proved an exercise in tenacity. My son Claude was an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) this past year at the Summit Food Coalition. […]

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Let’s talk about racism in America

Can I fully understand the African-American experience? No, because as a white woman, I have not lived the African-American experience. Does that mean I should not speak about the African-American experience? No. For as Dr. King said, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” […]

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