In late November, Contrarian reported that researchers at Stanford University had used a drug therapy to improve the learning skills of mice with a form of Down syndrome. Jenn Power, community leader at L'Arche Cape Breton and mother of twin boys with Down's, found the research distressing. She said people with Down's don't need a cure; they need "a society that values what they have to offer." This produced a fascinating discussion with many thoughtful contributions on all sides of the issue. At Contrarian's request, Dr. Ahmad Salehi, M.D., Ph.D., the lead researcher on the Stanford University study, has responded to...

Josh glasses-csThis thread  (starting here and here) questioning efforts to "cure" Down syndrome began with a quick email from Jenn Power, community leader at L'Arche Cape Breton, mother of identical twins with Down syndrome, and—disclosure—Contrarian's daughter-in-law. At Contrarian's request, she has elaborated:
In the end, for me, this all comes back to people. Josh, Jacob, Mary, Cathy, Kate, Janet…these people have Down Syndrome. These people are my family, my friends, my teachers. Without the benefit of that extra chromosome, they would not be who they are. Their intellectual “impairment” gives them an insight and an emotional intelligence and maturity that I can only aspire to. They do not need a needle in their brain to make them more functional, to help them find their car keys. What they need is a society that values what they have to offer. I would like to think that I can be a part of creating that society
Full post after the jump.
Previous posts questioning the efforts to "cure" Down syndrome begin here and here. Silas Barss Donham, husband of Jenn Power, father of Josh and Jacob, and son of Contrarian, writes:
A person's view of this type of medical research depends on whether one sees Down syndrome as a disease or as a natural genetic variation, like left-handedness or hair colour.  Most people in our society fall into the first group, but then, most people in our society don't know much about people with intellectual disabilities.  I suspect most people in our society wouldn't imagine the second group exists. This is related to one's ability to appreciate the unique gifts people with Down syndrome offer to those around them.  We do not see them, nor do they see themselves, as people who suffer from a debilitating disease, or as incomplete attempts at humanness.  We see them as complete human beings who have a unique experience and viewpoint. Trying to "cure" this condition seems as foreign as trying to cure maleness, left-handedness, or homosexuality.
Full post after the jump.
David Croft-sShortly after I posted Jenn Power's comments, a friend asked, "What if it were autism instead of Down syndrome — would you hesitate then? As if in reply, Contrarian received this email from David Croft, a Dartmouth father of two autistic children:
Sure, there are aspects of autism that I would like to better control in the boys.  There are manifestations that, if they were removed, would make the boys more functional and easier to handle - but would the removal of these aspects likewise involve the removal of aspects of the boys that make them them?
David's full comments after the break.

[caption id="attachment_3540" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="Cathy Brady"][/caption] Many readers have responded thoughtfully, and at length, to our post about  Jenn Power's reaction to news that Stanford University researchers had made headway toward a potential treatment for the cognitive impairment that is one feature of Down syndrome. I've received a wide range of views from parents and researchers, about both Down syndrome and autism. Thanks to all who contributed. Contrarian is on the road with limited Internet access. I'll be posting these as I can over the next few days, more or less in the order I received them. Several are quite long, and deserve to...

Jenn Power, Community Leader of L'Arche Cape Breton, mother of twin boys with Down syndrome, and—disclosure—Contrarian's daughter-in-law, had an interesting reaction to news that a Stanford University research team has made headway toward a potential treatment for the intellectual impairment that is one of Down's symptoms: She welled up with tears. The researchers probed the brains of mice genetically engineered to develop a rodent version of Down syndrome. They found that a region known as the hippocampus lacked a neurotransmitter that enables the brain to perform contextual learning. This is the process of gaining and applying knowledge in real-world situations—things like...