Have you seen Born This Way on A&E?
When I heard last fall that A&E was premiering a docu-series, Born This Way, about seven young adults with Down syndrome, I was excited, nervous, and hopeful. Although most people are already “aware” of Down syndrome, understanding of it falls near one of two ends of a spectrum: the old way of thinking that having a child with Down syndrome is a catastrophe, or the new way that focuses on homecoming queens and Target ads. As I wrote last year during Down syndrome awareness month, the reality of my son with Down syndrome is that he is both the same as his peers and very different, and Born This Way is a good window into that reality.
While watching the season one episodes of Born This Way, I found myself laughing one minute and crying the next. Nathan is only six, but I could see in the seven cast members the lack of inhibition, the jocular character, and the mischievous nature present in my own son. I could envision Nathan saying and doing many of the things that they said and did (including wanting to be free of me), and I could see myself in the parents of the cast, wanting so desperately for their children to be independent, but fearing that independence even more.
A few other things that struck me in season one include:
- There were a lot of hugs. Apparently, that’s not something Nathan is going to outgrow, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. As we’ve learned from watching him interact with people over the years, a lot of folks in our world today need hugs.
- The show reminds me a lot of the documentary Monica & David, but with more humor, and I like that aspect. Life with a kid born with a comedy gene isn’t all drama, as anyone who’s been reading this blog for more than a few days can see.
- The cast members don’t all look the same. Sure, they have some common physical characteristics, but having seven people with Down syndrome onscreen together (and in scenes with their families) is a great way to show the world that they look more like their families than they do each other.
- Development for those with Down syndrome isn’t linear. I wrote about this subject awhile back, and in one of the early episodes of season one, one of the dads said that people always ask “What is her mental age?” His answer is that it depends; in some ways she is like a five year old while in others she is like a 40 year old. I loved that scene because it’s one of those things that people who don’t live this life don’t really understand.
What this show gives me is a glimpse into the possibilities for my son’s future. What I hope it will give the world is a better understanding of what it is to be born different. Click the video below or go here to watch a trailer for season two.
Don’t miss season two of this touching Emmy-nominated series.
Born This Way airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on A&E, beginning tonight.
UPDATE: Full episodes of season one are available to stream online at A&E’s website. It’s not too late to binge-watch season one (just six episodes) before season two starts!