The Stare

We all know “the Stare”.  As a parent of a child with Down syndrome “the Stare” is something you anticipate well before it happens.  A few months back my mother-in-law asked if it bothered me when people stared at Juliette.  I paused for a moment, then gently replied, “No”.

Remember I had already thought about this well before it happened.  I had decided that the most impactful and meaningful way for others to understand Juliette and her buddies was to show them her joy, kindness and love.

You see Juliette is a social butterfly (she comes by it honestly) and no one is off limits.  If you see us in the grocery store or taking a stroll in the park she will get your attention.  Her stare, her wave, her “hi” is deliberate and purposeful.  And then once you see her smile and hear her giggle she has really captured your heart.

I willingly introduce her by name to people we meet in passing or who she has requested a high-five from.  I know they are curious because I was once curious too.  Before Juliette I had limited experience interacting with people who had differences.  I was that person who tried not to stare, did not always know how to respond or what to say.  I never wanted to offend or make someone feel uncomfortable.  If I knew back then what I know now I would have not stared, but instead said hello.

So if you stare do it with good intentions and witness the joy, kindness and love that you have missed.  If you have questions, just ask in a respectful way.  If you have children of your own teach them to be kind to people with Down syndrome and other differences by embracing their uniqueness.  After all, we are all just people who want to be accepted, loved and included.

Stephanie Westerman

Stephanie Westerman

Stephanie Westerman is the founder of She is an executive at Florida Blue, Wife to Brandon and Mom to Hudson and Juliette. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida.
Stephanie Westerman

5 thoughts on “The Stare

    1. Thank you, Sharon! We surround you with love and support! Tell us how we can make the site better.

  1. I’m so proud of what you do, Stephanie. My first real involvement in being Around Downs child was years ago as a member of our Junior League. We put on a 3 day camp for special needs children. I admit I “stared” at first to see how the children would respond, . Then I stared with amazement at how those precious children exude such joy and happiness…and oh, the hugs. By the end of three days I i was thrilled and looked forward to getting and returning every hug. I hope one day soon I can meet sweet Jewels and get a high five and a hug.

  2. I always look not sure I stare, because I thinking looking away can say a lot too. Downs children are almost always friendly. I have a great nephew with Downs so I like to see what that child has accomplished. I do the same with other babies that are around the same age as my grandson. I believe children always deserve recognition, its good for them. So not everyone is just curious. But a great article.

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