“I think her story is particularly moving, and I think it demonstrates resilience pretty much every single day.”—Future Women founder and author of Liz’ chapter, Helen McCabe
When the doctor first walked into Liz Cole’s hospital room after her son was born, instead of joy, the room felt sombre. Instead of congratulations, she was met with an apology. The doctor seemed upset to tell her that her newborn son, David, had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome. “He told me that I should ‘try to love him if you can’. He then handed me the most awful reading material, You and Your Mongoloid Child, written in 1963, featuring some severe cases of Down syndrome.” Liz Cole recounts in Untold Resilience.
“It was as if I could see the world in another dimension, and it was a universe mostly unknown or unexplored by others.”
At the time of David’s birth, there was little to no correct education or information on children who had disabilities, Liz sadly said, “David was born in the 1980s, so there was no computer. They were encyclopedias, dictionaries, and doctors.” Cole was unsure of what David’s diagnosis meant for him. Her only resource was the book her doctor gave her, and the only other book her mother could find on disabilities, which was neither about children with or children who had Down syndrome. Her friends were unsure of how to support her, and many simply chose not to.
Liz Cole, image supplied
“I had one friend who came to visit when David was still in the bassinet. She asked, ‘Is he healthy?’ and I cheerfully said ‘Yes! But he’s got Down syndrome.’ She raced out the door saying, ‘I’ve got to go.’ I never saw her again.” Cole in Untold Resilience. As David was growing up, Cole was met with all types of harmful assumptions of his disability. Teachers who would exclude him from activities, suggesting he would be unable to complete them as they were too advanced. Friends who no longer knew how to speak to herself or David, or ignore David entirely.
“Never assume that he’s not listening, never assume that he’s not understanding, just because he can’t respond.” She said, in conversation with Helen and Jamila, “someone taught him to type, and the first thing he typed was, ‘Why does my father think I’m an idiot?’” Something that has resonated with Cole since. “Giving birth to a child with a disability gave me a wonderful perspective on life.” Cole shared with the Future Women audience, “It was as if I could see the world in another dimension, and it was a universe mostly unknown or unexplored by others.”