Late last week GQ Magazine published John Thompson’s list of 40 Worst Dressed Cities in America. In the article Mr. Thompson stated, “due to so much local in-breeding, Boston suffers from a kind of Style Down Syndrome, where a little extra ends up ruining everything.” About the very time this article was being released, I was having a discussion with a good friend who told me that she thought people were more accepting of those with Down syndrome and disabilities than they used to be. I agreed but pointed out that we still have so far to go and public perception is one of our great hurdles. We still have people like this Mr. Thompson who find it acceptable to use individuals with developmental disabilities as fodder for their attempts at humor. My fashion sense isn’t much, and I must admit that when I first saw the headline I wondered why former Georgetown Coach John Thompson was writing about fashion!Apparently, this offensive and insensitive part of the story has been removed and the Boston Herald has even posted an editorial response to the ill article. In reading the comments I have been encouraged, amused and angered. Several posts state that you shouldn’t be so politically correct and sensitive. The implication is that he was not actually talking about people with Trisomy 21, Down syndrome. He was saying that Boston had a “dress down” syndrome. Really? My daughter who has Down syndrome could read his statement “ and tell you that this is directed at individuals with Down syndrome.
What I would really like is to introduce Mr. Thompson to my daughter Rachel who has an extra chromosome. I would love to get his take on their fashion sense. Rachel is quite the little fashion diva. She likes to dress up and go to weddings and parties. She likes to wear pretty dresses to church and leave them on all day. She likes to wear clothes from Justice – especially animal prints and anything pink. She loves to be complimented on her clothing. Today’s pictures are from her first fashion show. She was three and was helping to raise money for an early intervention program.
One of the many things most people don’t know is that it is sometimes challenging physically for individuals with Down syndrome to dress fashionably. You see Rachel, like many of her friends with Down syndrome, has a hard time with her fine motor skills so it is hard for her to zip and unzip, button and unbutton and tie and untie things. I thought we could just wear Velcro tennis shoes forever. When she was eight she announced to me that she didn’t want those “Sticky” shoes anymore. “I want to tie my shoes like everyone else.” She works hard at it and we find clothing that works. Sometimes it is trial and error, and sometimes I replace certain fasteners with the “sticky” stuff on a waistband. Usually, she fares well. For some people it is harder. Individuals with Down syndrome often have shorter limbs and so their dimensions don’t match with the standard dimensions used for clothing off the rack. Most people don’t have the income for a personal tailor. Elastic waistbands give way to buttons and snaps and fasteners that are even hard for me to maneuver. We often hear about sensory issues associated with Autism. Well, think Down syndrome too. Many individuals with Down syndrome have sensory issues, which impacts the clothing they can wear comfortably without distraction. And yes, some individuals with Down syndrome have health issues and need a feeding tube or have a scar from the heart surgeries they have had. All things to consider when you are looking at fashion wear. The point of today’s blog is not fashion commentary. However, I do hope you can follow me and understand that it gives me an opportunity to educate readers on yet another aspect of Down syndrome. It is still about continuously educating everyone on the challenges and joys, and little by little changing public perception: one person at a time.
I think if Mr. Thompson would really like to add value to society, instead of “making fun” of people with Down syndrome and Bostonians, he might invest in starting a company that would help to make fashionable garments for individuals with Down syndrome and he would sell them for inexpensive prices. How about it Mr. Thompson?