Colorado teenager Nick Hansen does not let his extra chromosome get in the way of achieving his goals.
The 18-year-old, who has Down syndrome, recently earned his black belt in Taekwondo at Kicks Martial Arts Studio in Aurora – something only about one in 100 students do, instructor Victoria Wagner told Rocky Mountain PBS.
“My favorite thing about martial arts is you get the confidence inside you. Try hard and do your best. Focus your mind and your body,” Hansen said after achieving his goal on Aug. 13.
Wagner said the young man did not receive any special assistance because he has Down syndrome; he achieved his black belt the same way that every other martial arts student does, according to the report.
“Nick absolutely killed it. He did everything he needed to do the same that a traditional student would,” she told the news outlet.
His mother, Babette Hansen, said all five of her children are over-achievers, and Nick is no exception.
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“I hate to put limits on Nick because he always proves me wrong,” she told PBS. “All of his brothers and sisters are over-achievers, but he was never going to have a dim light. If you were to ask anyone in our family who’s our favorite, all of us would say that it’s Nick because it doesn’t matter if we’re having a good day or a bad day, he can always make us smile.”
She said Nick recently graduated high school, and he works hard to achieve his goals.
Babette Hansen also emphasized how thankful she is that she chose life for Nick while he was still in the womb.
“When we first found out Nick was going to have Down syndrome, we found out in utero,” she said.
Many parents face pressure to abort their unborn babies after a Down syndrome diagnosis. According to ABC News Australia, a recent study by Down Syndrome Australia found that “half of new parents faced discrimination and neglect from medical professionals during and after prenatal screenings.” One family told the news outlet that they were shocked when they learned their doctor had scheduled an abortion before even telling them that their baby had Down syndrome.
Babette Hansen said she understands parents’ fear and heartbreak when they learn about their child’s disability, but there was no question in her mind that her unborn son was valuable.
“I get it. It’s a very scary prospect to raise a child with special needs and I can’t fault anyone for any decision they choose to make,” she said. “But for us we chose to keep him, and it’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made because my life would not be as nearly as wonderful as it is without our son Nick.”
Discrimination against unborn babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities is a huge problem. According to the Atlantic, in Denmark, 95 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Several years ago, CBS News reported nearly 100 percent of unborn babies who test positive for Down syndrome are aborted in Iceland. The rate in France was 77 percent in 2015, 90 percent in the UK and between 67 and 90 percent in the United States.
These extremely high rates of discrimination have many families speaking up about the value of children with disabilities and the need to provide better, life-affirming support after a prenatal diagnosis.
Some medical groups are working to end prenatal discrimination, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued new guidelines encouraging doctors to take a positive, life-affirming approach with families whose unborn babies have been diagnosed with Down syndrome while offering resources and support.
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