October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
It’s also my birthday this Monday.
So it felt like a sort of serendipitous early birthday present when Conny Wenk’s new book, “Freundschaft” arrived on my doorstep yesterday.
For those who know little about Down’s Syndrome, the fear of the “other” can be pervading. Ideas of strange looking people dribbling into their chests, while sporting dodgy pudding-basin haircuts, help to contribute to the 92% termination rate of pregnancies carrying children with DS.
But where do these outdated images come from? Mostly they reflect people who were abandoned (or taken away) at birth and raised in institutions where care was never given at a level equivalent to a family upbringing.
30, 40, 50 years on from these times, the world is a very different place. Advances in medicine and ideas of what constitutes care have drastically changed the lives and expectations of children born with DS.
Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows that I never hesitate to point out, 98% of bringing up a child with DS is just bringing up a child.
But words on a page are limited, and often it really is the case a picture can speak a thousand more.
Enter Conny Wenk – mother of a beautiful daughter with DS, and photographer extraordinaire.
Conny’s photos are spellbinding. In them we see children, young adults and families having fun and engaging in life. Warmth and love shine through every image.
Last year, I reviewed Conny’s book, Außergewöhnlich: Väterglück (click here for my review), which was full of the most amazing images of fathers with children who have DS, and I was blown away by the power of them to destroy the dark and fearful ideas of what DS might mean.
This year, Conny has done it again. Only this time, her book “Freundschaft” (Friendship) is all about young adults with DS and the bond between friends.
Like her previous book, this one too is written in German. And like her previous book, it matters not one jot if you can’t speak the language – the photographs tell the most amazing and heart-warming stories.
Real young adults having real fun with real friends.
As parents, when we discover our tiny, vulnerable newborn has DS, we fear for his or her future on many levels – one of which is, will they ever have normal friendships?
I and other parents can say, of course. But the photos in this book show beyond all doubt, you don’t just have to take our word for it.
In an ideal world every new parent of a child with DS, indeed every person faced with the decision of what to do next upon discovering the child being carried in the womb has DS, should be given copies of Conny’s books.
And very quickly those fears of the “other” would disappear like the darkness chased away by the early morning sunrise.
The book is available on Amazon for less than 20 Euros - http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/3862560066/ (to check the Amazon entry in your own country, just enterConny Wenk Freundschaft in Amazon's search box), and I can't recommend it highly enough.
All images in this post are the copyright of Conny Wenk.
For other publications by Conny, visit http://www.alittleextra.de/