Columnists, Coronavirus, Featured, Jon Caldara, Uncategorized

Caldara: People like my son being left behind

Bragging about your kids is a basic human right.

After my daughter died of cancer, listening to parents talks about their kids’ achievements was, well, tough.

Fortunately, two children came to my rescue. And if you excuse the indulgence, I’d like to brag, this time, about my son, Chance “the Man” Caldara.

Chance has Down syndrome and has struggled even to stay alive at different times of his life, going through some 14 operations including open-heart surgery at four weeks old. It took four years to teach him how to eat solid foods, causing “failure to thrive” hospitalization.

The Man, who will be 17-years-old in June, can’t read or write but with a lot of encouragement can count to 10. He still needs help bathing and toileting and while very expressive, only about half of what he says is intelligible. I can translate a lot of his speech for others. We call it “Chancelation.”

But the best description of Chance is he’s a party packed into one person.

He is as loud as a kegger party, constantly imitating an airplane or race car. Like a rock star in a hotel room, he joyfully trashes every part of my home. He is the very embodiment of the expression, “and this is why we can’t have nice things.” He is the reincarnation of John Belushi with the physical comedy of The Three Stooges.

Simply, he’s the frat brother I never had.

Once after I fell sleep for 20 minutes, I woke to find half my lawn furniture in his bedroom. At 3:00 in the morning I found him, in only underwear, dancing like a mad man. I open his dresser drawer to find a box of melting fudge-pops. I open my refrigerator to find it crammed with toys. I walk into the bathroom to find scores of match-box cars in neat rows.

When I come home Chance jumps from several steps above me yelling “Da!” If I don’t catch his 150-pound body just right, I’ll be crushed like a beer can.

I’m the happy victim of a fair amount of elder abuse.

Chance achieves with ease that which escapes most all adults — he finds joy and wonderment with every little aspect of life. Yesterday he made a plastic fork come to life for a half hour, filling it with adventure. This man could teach the Buddha how to live in the moment.

Chance, with all his challenges and limitations, is recklessly devouring life. (So, what’s your excuse?)

For me Chance also drives home the need for government that doesn’t leave people like him behind. Too often he and others like him are second-class citizens.

Today healthy, able young people can sign onto a government website and get Medicaid benefits immediately. Chance was on the Medicaid waitlist for years before he could get needed benefits and services.

Chance still hasn’t had his COVID vaccine!

Healthy state legislators, healthy reporters (who, purely coincidentally, prodigiously carry the left’s narratives), even the governor’s young partner who already had COVID were prioritized over people like Chance, who has Down syndrome and a heart condition.

It’s good to be in with those in power. Unhappily, people like Chance aren’t.

I would love a direct answer from those legislators, reporters and the first gentleman: Why did you decide to take a vaccine that could have gone to someone like my son?

The governmental lockdowns affect people like Chance differently. Even going out to dinner is an important learning experience for him. It helps encourage him to speak clearly ordering food, to look into the eyes of the wait staff. Nearly a year without those practices.

The most devastating of all is the full year of education ripped away from Chance. Online education is horrid for many typical students anyway, but for kids like my son it is no education at all.

They learn from personal interactions with peers, hands-on therapies, kinetic and social learning. Cleaving a year of learning away from kids with physical and intellectual disabilities is just hateful, bigoted discrimination.

The ONLY way to make up for this stolen year is to add another full year of in-person educational service to their limited time in the system. Give them back the FULL year stolen from them.

Give Chance a chance.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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