Nov 26

Others Far from the Tree: Dwarfs, Down Syndrome, Disability Chapters

All last week I featured different chapters from Andrew Solomon‘s Far from the Tree. Of the available video clips associated with the book, those shown here today are the ones that didn’t make it into those previous posts. Others “Far from the Tree” include chapters on dwarfs, Down syndrome, and disability.

I. Others Far from the Tree: Dwarfs

Dwight Garner, in reviewing Solomon’s book for The New York Times, highlights the type of dilemma some parents with a dwarf child face: “You might think the idea of putting your dwarf child through painful, limb-lengthening surgery is an unnecessary form of torture. And it might be thus. But Mr. Solomon quotes one father about his dwarf daughter’s short arms: ‘What is the most important thing you can think of other than being able to wipe yourself?'”

Here’s Clinton Brown III’s story:

II. Others Far from the Tree: Down Syndrome

On Solomon’s website is the following intro to Chapter Four:

For centuries, people with Down syndrome (DS) were assumed to be uneducable, a lost cause, not fully human.

Breakthroughs in early intervention and education have demonstrated that people with DS can do more than anyone ever dreamed, and today there are actors, poets, and other accomplished people with DS, many living more than twice as long as was once thought possible.

Ironically, at the exact same time, genetic screening for the condition has become widely available, and many people are choosing to terminate DS pregnancies.

Deirdre Featherstone and daughter Catherine:

III. Others Far from the Tree: Disability

Also from the website is the following info about the “Disability” chapter:

Multiple severe disabilities may render people unable to walk or talk, unable to express their humanity the way most of us do—and yet they remain ineffably human and are often profoundly loved. Indeed, some parents exalt the purity of loving children who are incapable of manipulation, exploitation, or cruelty.

The question of how much someone with such radical limitations can progress is mysterious; some brains have proven surprisingly plastic, and some people have emerged from limitations that seemed intractable. How do we treat acutely disabled people humanely even as we acknowledge the ways that they are profoundly different from other people?

Bill Davis and son Chris, who presents with multiple problems: