Exhibition Photos and Issues
Click on the images below to view a larger version.
View all the photos from our Beyond the Myths exhibition by clicking on issues in the list or by scrolling down the page of photos. Read the all-important text linked to each photo which highlights some existing myths about people with Down syndrome and which dispels these myths. Click here to read more about the exhibition. Photographer Mona Neumann
List of Issues
- How dare you suggest our mothers are old!
- Children with Down Syndrome are always happy and smiling - aren't they?
- We start learning young and we never stop!
- Lots of people with Down Syndrome love music...
- There's one in every crowd - people with Down Syndrome are everywhere!
- Anything you can do we can do too!
- Who said people with Down Syndrome can't read?
- Some of my best friends have Down Syndrome...
- Let's take the world by storm!
- I'm an adult with adult emotions - don't treat me like a child.
- Adult and independent! I manage my own home and my own affairs.
- Count us in! We can hold varying interesting jobs in open employment.
- There's a lot to think about when you've got Down syndrome
How dare you suggest our mothers are old!
Many people think, incorrectly, that children with Down Syndrome are only born to older mothers. Some people also think that if you have a child with Down syndrome, then it was your own 'fault' for risking a pregnancy at an advanced age! Although maternal age is a factor affecting the likelihood of having a child with Down syndrome, babies with Down syndrome are born to mothers of all ages.
For the simple demographic reason that far more children are born to mothers in younger age groups, most children with Down syndrome are born to women younger than 35.
MOST CHILDREN WITH DOWN SYNDROME ARE BORN TO WOMEN YOUNGER THAN 35.
Children with Down Syndrome are always happy and smiling - aren't they?
One of the most common myths about people with Down Syndrome is that they are always happy and smiling. Such a comment is often passed to the parents of a newly-born child with Down syndrome by well meaning but ill-informed people who see it as a kind of consolation - 'Well, your baby might have Down syndrome, but they're all such happy, smiling little people, aren't they?' No they're not! Does it matter?
Such a myth seems harmless enough: in fact, it seems almost like a positive stereotype. But what is actually being suggested is that people with Down syndrome don't have the capacity to experience the full range of human emotions; they aren't capable of feeling pain, anger, rage or humiliation - and you don't have to worry about hurting their feelings.
PEOPLE WITH DOWN SYNDROME EXPERIENCE ALL THE EMOTIONS, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE DOES.
We start learning young and we never stop!
One of the common myths once held about people with Down Syndrome was that they were incapable of learning. Or else, that young children with Down Syndome can learn - for a while - but then they 'plateau' or stop. Given encouragement, exposure to appropriate teaching and a supportive environment, people with Down Syndrome can continue to enjoy learning, like anybody else.
For most children with Down Syndrome nowadays, teaching and learning start very young, through a process called 'early intervention'.
From a few weeks after the baby is born, parents are encouraged to start gently facilitating their baby's development through simple physical exercises; later, speech and occupational therapy are introduced. Early intervention is designed to help children with Down Syndrome achieve their maximum physical and intellectual potential, while other activities, such as playgroup and integrated schooling and recreation, help children attain their full educational, social and personal potential. People with Down Syndrome have a far greater capacity to learn than was previously believed.
THE ONLY LIMITS ARE OTHER PEOPLE'S LOW EXPECTATIONS.
Lots of people with Down Syndrome love music...
...and lots of them don't.
They all love music? This is another common and popular myth about people with Down Syndrome. It's true that many children with Down syndrome develop a love for music which they retain all their lives. So do lots of other people.
It may also be that babies with Down syndrome are particularly exposed to music from an early age, as part of early intervention programmes. But there is no reason to believe that people with Down Syndrome are any more - or any less - musical or 'interested in music' than their peers.
SPOT THE TWO BOYS WITH DOWN SYNDROME NOT ENJOYING MUSIC IN THIS GROUP.
There's one in every crowd - people with Down Syndrome are everywhere!
It is now a myth to say that people with Down Syndrome don't participate in every part of life. People with Down syndrome are no longer hidden away by society in institutions, they're everywhere! One place where you'll find children with Down syndrome fitting in these days is in the ordinary classroom and school playground. A number of educational options are now available for children with Down syndrome in both the public and private systems.
Integrated or 'inclusive' education is recognised as beneficial to both children with disabilities and their 'ordinary' classmates. Inclusive education, with children with a range of disabilities included in the ordinary classroom, is increasingly favoured by parents. Sometimes children are provided with a degree of teacher aid support.
There are also schools which offer a special education support unit or centre, where children with disabilities spend some time in the ordinary classroom and some time being given special instruction. Segregated education, in schools designed specifically to meet the needs of children with intellectual disabilites, is also available. Choosing the appropriate school for a child with an intellectual disability such as Down syndrome is sometimes not easy and it is important to keep in mind both what a particular school can offer and the individual child's educational needs and rights.
IT'S IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER EACH CHILD'S INDIVIDUAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS.
Anything you can do we can do too!
It is a myth to say that people with Down Syndrome are limited in what they can do or attempt.
In the past some medical problems may not have been addressed, and this may have held some people back. But these days medical problems are addressed from an early age.
Most children with Down syndrome enjoy reasonably good health. About two in five are born with a congenital heart defect, which may require surgery; some may have hearing or vision problems; others suffer more than usual from common colds or constipation.
But regular attention to health problems, early intervention and physiotherapy from birth mean that there are very few sport and recreational activities which are not open to people with Down syndrome today.
YOUR ATTITUDE CAN BE MY DISABILITY!
Who said people with Down Syndrome can't read?
Can't read? This is a myth. In earlier years, even as recently as the 1970s, institutionalisation of children wtih Down syndrome was common in Australia. There, their learning experiences were narrowly circumscribed. Few, if any, were taught to read and write.
Even children in their own homes were often not taught to read, on the grounds that 'they weren't capable of it' - and then their failure to read and write was attributed to their intellectual disability, not to the fact that they'd never been given the opportunity!
Nowadays it's the norm for primary school children with Down syndrome to learn to read and write. Given the opportunity and the support they need most children with Down syndrome learn to read and write.
GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY AND SUPPORT, MOST CHILDREN WITH DOWN SYNDROME LEARN TO READ AND WRITE.
Some of my best friends have Down Syndrome...
..and some of them don't.
It is a myth to think that people with Down Syndrome don't have friends or don't need friends like everybody else. It is also a myth to think that they only have friends with disabilities.
People with Down syndrome make friends with people they have something in common with: enjoying the same recreation, sport or hobby; living in the same neighbourhood; going to the same school; or even having Down syndrome! Social integration is the best way for people who don't have Down syndrome to get to know more about people who do, and vice versa. It's an enriching experience for everyone concerned.
PEOPLE WITH DOWN SYNDROME HAVE FRIENDS THEY DO 'STUFF' WITH JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE. THEY LIKE PEOPLE FOR LOTS OF DIFFERENT REASONS........DOWN SYNDROME DOESN'T COME INTO IT!
Let's take the world by storm!
People with Down Syndrome are sometimes characterised as quiet, shy and retiring. Myth! As these images show, given the opportunity to perform in public, people with Down syndrome can astonish! Indeed, some people with Down syndrome have a lack of self-consciousness on stage which is the envy of other performers. Street theatre, flamenco dancing, circus, cabaret - the sky's the limit!
MANY PEOPLE WITH DOWN SYNDROME LOVE TO PERFORM AND 'LET THEIR HAIR DOWN'.
I'm an adult with adult emotions - don't treat me like a child.
People with Down Syndrome do not remain children all their lives! Sexuality and adult relationships can be difficult topics to broach for many people and for parents in particular. Recognising the emotional and sexual needs of their children with Down syndrome as they approach adulthood can sometimes be challenging. The desire to protect one's children, particularly girls, is common to most parents; but sometimes this can lead to the denial of a child's growing maturity.
All people with Down syndrome need to be taught about normal sexual development, sexual behaviour, different sorts of relationships, social skills and avoiding the possibility of sexual abuse. There is no reason why people with Down syndrome cannot enjoy normal relationships, like any other adults.
THERE IS NO REASON WHY PEOPLE WITH DOWN SYNDROME CANNOT ENJOY NORMAL RELATIONSHIPS, LIKE OTHER ADULTS.
Adult and independent! I manage my own home and my own affairs.
Some people believe that people Down syndrome will always need to live at home and be looked after.
The young woman featured in this photograph did not have the benefit of early intervention although she had the support of dedicated and loving parents, and her literacy skills are therefore not as good as those of some younger people. But she has overcome this obstacle. She shops, for example, with the aid of compic pictures - pictorial representations of the items which she needs to buy - rather than written shopping list. More important, she holds down a reqarding job and is the owner of her own unit, which she is buying independently. She shares her unit with a flatmate, who also has an intellectual disability.
With some low level outside support and making use of aids such as compic, Lisa manages her own household affairs and can anticipate a financially secure and independent future. Her independence may not yet be typical for older people with Down syndrome, but it is certainly a possibility - and an inspiration.
WITH A LITTLE SUPPORT I HAVE A VERY FULFILLING LIFE.
Count us in! We can hold varying interesting jobs in open employment.
Won't ever work in a proper job? Another myth!
Many people with Down syndrome, such as the individuals pictured here, hold jobs in open employment. Others choose to work in supported employment. In Perth, there are a number of organisations which help match people with a range of disabilities to job openings in open employment. The organisation can then provide on-the-job support, establish co-workers to facilitate the process of learning the new job, and monitor workplace integration while individuals settle in to their new occupations. When everyone is ready, this support is withdrawn.
WIth back-up where appropriate, people with Down syndrome are capable of undertaking valuable and fulfilling work in a wide variety of occupations.
JUST GIVE US THE CHANCE!
There's a lot to think about when you've got Down syndrome.
People with Down syndrome all look alike! How often have you heard that myth?
Down syndrome is caused by a chromosomal abnormality which can result in intellectual and physical delay. It occurs more frequently than any other specific kind of intellectual disability and occurs in about one in 800 live births in Western Australia. The figures are much the same throughout the world. Down syndrome is present in every culture, every ethnic group, every social class.
A syndrome is a collection of characteristics. Not all will be present in all people with Down syndrome. Although people with Down syndrome do share some common physical characteristics, they are individuals, with an individual appearance. People with Down syndrome resemble their parents and other family members much more than they do each other. The syndrome was described more than 100 years ago by Dr Langdon Down, hence the name. But it has been recognised as a distinct phenomenon for centuries, even millennia. Some earlier cultures used to revere individuals with Down syndrome , regarding them as 'children of God'. It's also been suggested that a Renaissance artist Mantegna used children with Down syndrome as models for a portrait of the Chtist child.
Although people with Down syndrome share some of the same characteristics, they are individuals and family members first. They don't all look alike.
PEOPLE WITH DOWN SYNDROME RESEMBLE THEIR PARENTS AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS MUCH MORE THAN THEY DO EACH OTHER.
This 'Beyond the Myths' section of our website is an evolution of the original photographic exhibition jointly funded by Healthway, the Western Australian Museum, The Gordon Reid Foundation for Recreation for People with Disabilities and the Down Syndrome Association of WA (Inc). The exhibition is the work of Fremantle freelance photographer Mona Neumann,
The following photographs were produced through a photographic workshop conducted in Perth Western Australia, in early 1997, with people with Down syndrome taught the technical skills of photography and encouraged to create their own images of their lives. All these photographs were the product of group workshopping and represent themes which were important to the participants' experiences of having Down syndrome.
The photographs themselves were taken collectively, with everyone participating in the process.
The following are some comments about the original photographic exhibition and those forwarded to us via our website feedback page.
Credits and Acknowledgements
Mona Neumann, Photographer
Jan Gothard, Project Co-ordinator and Text Author
Gordon Reid Foundation for Recreation for People with Disabilities
Ann Delroy, Western Australian History Museum, Fremantle
Douglas Elford, Site Producer & Designer, Western Australian Museum
George Brown, Project Manager
Members and friends of the Down Syndrome Association of Western Australia (Inc)
Barry Mackinnon, Chair, Disability Services Commission Board
West Coast Eagles Football Club
PE Personnel and Staff
Reg Bolton's YMCA Melville Circus School
Riding for the Disabled Association of Western Australia (Inc) - Capricorn Group
Patrick Moore, Senior Projects Officer, LISWA