Thursday, December 25, 2008

What's Wrong with Julius

A few years ago Alice Perreault was at the grocery store with her son Julius. The cashier looked at her son and looked at Perreault and asked, "What's wrong with him?"

She'd forgotten all about that question.

"...It all came back to me about that worry of that question," she said. "And there it was."

The question came up about her sister, Renee.

Renee was born with Down syndrome. Right after the delivery, before her mother had recovered from anesthesia, hospital staff asked her father if he wanted to sign papers and have the baby taken away. Because that's what was done at the time.

"I spent my whole life with Renee explaining to people why she looks the way she does," Perreault said.

Now her son wasn't a baby anymore. And there was the question again.

During delivery, Julius' umbilical cord was pinched. He went without oxygen for 22 minutes.

He went into a coma.

He went into a state of neurological agitation. He cried for six months.

Now he had quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

But the cashier wasn't asking what his diagnosis was.

She was asking what was wrong with him.

That, in part, was why Alice Perreault started Kindred Spirits. Perreault, an artist and educator wanted to bring art into her son's life. But she also wanted people to stop asking that question.

That's why Kindred Spirits is an art studio where kids with and without disabilities work side by side.

And then display the work out in the community.

Perreault runs the organization in addition to caring for her son and her sister.

She doesn't want pity.

She doesn't want people to say mothers like her are "blessed." (She mimes sticking her finger down her throat. "Ugghhh.")

And she wanted a cashier to know that nothing was "wrong" her son.

So when Julius was looking up at her, wondering how she was going to answer the question, she smiled back at him and then looked at the cashier and said, "Nothing. We're having a great day.'"

For more information about Kindred Spirits click here.

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