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Down’s Syndrome the Biography

Darton, Longman and Todd 2012

RRP $29.95

Reviewed by Wendy Scott, Kenmore Uniting Church.

THIS is a very accessible history of diagnosis, treatment, acceptance, and care of people with Down's Syndrome.

The genre style is somewhere between history and novel, making it easy to read.

I learned a great deal from this book.

The book covers definitions, legal descriptions, and history of such things as 'village idiot' and lunatic.

The term lunatics meant that they had conditions that surfaced after birth and were potentially curable, idiots had genetic or birth traumas and were considered incurable. These terms are used in context and I strongly emphasises that they are not derogatory.

The author describes how most people that that parents of Down's Syndrome children are seen as saints, when really they are people who need a combination of patience, stamina, organizational skills and a calm temper.

It was interesting to read in the history of Down's Syndrome people, of veneration by the Olmecs (ancient Mexicans), to the Greeks and Romans at the time of Hippocrates leaving the newborns outside to die, then later institutionalising them, and many other points in between.

It was positive, informative, non-judgemental, and encourages the reader to see people with Down Syndrome as our neighbour and to love.

Anyone who knows of someone with Downs Syndrome or votes for politicians who choose treatment policies should read this.