Steve Riggio is the CEO of the book retailer Barnes & Noble, and his daughter Melissa has Down syndrome. Melissa sings in the school choir, is a member of the swim team and works at the YMCA. Riggio has launched a campaign aimed to show that people with disabilities like Down syndrome aren’t unusual, and can lead normal lives. Individuals with Down syndrome are more like the average person. These people have the same interests, hopes and dreams as any other normal person. (USA Today 2-2-2007)
According to the National Down Syndrome Society there are varying degrees of mental retardation, and range from mild to moderate. Down syndrome occurs one in 733 births, and more than 350,000 people in America have this syndrome.
Autism is a disability that appears during the first three years of life, and is the result of a neurological disorder. This disorder affects the normal functioning of the brain which will impact social interaction and communication skills. According to the Autism Society of America, Autism will affect individuals differently and with varying degrees. Autism is one of five disorders that fall under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders, which is a category of neurological disorders characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development. These severe areas will often allow the person to be considered as retardation.
Autism is believed to be common and found in 1 in 150 births according to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention. That would mean that approximately 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism, and according to the Autism Society of American this number is on the rise. This Autism could be caused from a myriad of problems. Some can be preventable, and some can’t.
Asperger’s syndrome is another aspect of autism, and this syndrome is not as severe as autism, however, Asperger’s is related to autism. Asperger’s is less disabling, and usually affects communication and social interaction, restricted and repetitious stereotypical behaviors like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Retardation does not have to include all of these disorders. Retardation means a low IQ of 70 or below. Retardation does not mean that these people are worthless. They just are slower in their mental capacity. Look at the Special Olympics which is an international program of year-round sports training and athletic competition. Special Olympics program is dedicated to empower individuals with mental retardation. All the United States, the District of Columbia, Guam have chapter offices. Plus Special Olympics programs are located in over 150 countries.
With organizations such as Special Olympics and Steve Riggio are helping to ensure that Retardation doesn’t mean a second class citizen. They can produce music, sell items to people, perform, work productively, and are an overall service to humankind. Mental Retardation is not something to be ashamed of, it’s something to overcome. The people with retardation want others to understand one specific thing, and that is: to focus on the things they can do, and not focus on what they can’t. They can achieve a lot more than people thought 20 or 30 years ago.