"My Sister, Alicia May" and Reece's Rainbow

by intern Heather B.

MySisterAliciaMay.jpgIt's time to make room on the bookshelf for another gem: My Sister, Alicia May gently portrays the familial love shared by a girl and her younger sister, who is "special for many reasons," among them being that she has Down syndrome.

The 13-page children's book takes the reader on a "day in the life of"-like saga narrating the blessings and hardships of growing up with a sibling who has Down syndrome. Written in the first person, each page draws a new example that beautifully emphasizes the joys experienced by a proud and patient older sister....

The book also honestly addresses common reactions to children's special needs, including frustration and embarrassment. One such incident told the story of Alicia May's first ride on the school bus, and the dilemma the other kids' teasing caused for her big sister, Rachel. As Aesop would have it, sisterly loyalty prevails, and the reader is genuinely warmed by the example of heroic charity.

Authored by award-winning Nancy Tupper Ling, with stunning, life-like illustrations by Shennen Bersani, My Sister, Alicia May is an absolute "must" for families with young children, especially those with special needs.

Rainbow.jpgFamilies seeking to adopt special needs children like Alicia May will want to look into the non-profit, organization known as Reece's Rainbow, which serves to connect children with Down syndrome from around the globe with readily adoptive families in the US.

Although only 4 years old, Reece's Rainbow has already helped to place more than 175 children from 32 countries around the world, including Mexico, Russia, Ghana, Armenia, Haiti, Liberia, Vietnam and Korea. Every cent given is put directly toward the child, family or fund designated by the donor.

As one adoptive mother said, "the fact that Reece's Rainbow is helping to secure all of these adoptions of Down syndrome kids conveys to others that these children deserve the right to live just like other children."

rrainbow.jpgFor decades, doctors have recommended that pregnant women 35 and older take an amniocentesis test because their age indicates a greater risk for chromosomal defects. The test, however, carries a slight chance of miscarriage, but has been offered to younger women, who end up giving birth to the majority of Down syndrome babies.

Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a recommendation that doctors offer a new screening procedure to all pregnant women. The test, including a sonogram and two blood tests in the first trimester, would detect the extra 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome. Approximately 90% of all prenatal detections of this chromosomal abnormality end in abortion.

[Photo and image attributions: nancytupperling.com; reecesrainbow.org]


My niece died recently, and she had Downs. But she lived to the age of about 40. She had a lot of time, and a lot of joy in her life. To suggest to her mother that she should have been killed before birth would've gotten you told where to go.

Posted by: Doyle Chadwick at July 16, 2009 11:18 AM

I'm sorry about your niece, Doyle. I'm sure she was a really special person :).

Posted by: Pamela at July 16, 2009 11:53 AM

When I was pregnant in the first trimester I was offered a "First trimester Screen", its the test described above and I took it. I was told that incase my child had a defect, options would be given. I did not understand it at that time but aftwerwards I realized that they offered this test early on so that you can terminate your pregnancy incase there is a "chance" you are carrying a down syndrome child. They are pretty specific on when the test should be taken. In my case it had to be between the 11th and 13th week of pregnancy.
I now know that if I am given another child, I will skip the first trimester screen because I know that whatever condition my baby has, I will love and cherish him/her no matter what. I will take whatever God brings my way.

Posted by: NewMom at July 16, 2009 12:04 PM

Very nice review, Heather! I appreciate your covering the 90% statistic and the use of prenatal testing to "seek" and abortion to "destroy."

My daughter w/DS is nothing but a blessing! Sure there are challenges, but the blessings outweigh them.

Posted by: MH at July 16, 2009 1:31 PM

I'm sorry to hear the sad news, Doyle. Yet, it's great to hear that she lived a full life. :)

I love books such as these that promote equal rights and, just by being honest, attempt to put an end to prejudice.

Thanks for reviewing these. :)

Posted by: Vannah at July 16, 2009 2:11 PM

I am so sorry, Doyle.

Amen, NewMom, amen.

Posted by: carla Author Profile Page at July 16, 2009 2:37 PM

I got the screening only with my last two. It was not a question of would I keep it but if either of them did have DS I wanted to get any help/information I would need set up so I wouldn't have to worry about it with a new baby.

But the screening is as far as I would go even though the results are often wrong. I would not have risked an amnio to find out for sure because it didn't matter to me.

Posted by: Kristen at July 16, 2009 3:14 PM

Well Kirsten,good for you for not wanting to risk your babie's life for a test. Sadly search-and-destroy" tests are getting easier; there is a test already to determine if a mother is carrying a child with Ds, it's called the nuchal thickening test and it's done as early as 10 weeks by sonogram. There was an even earlier blood test developed by Sequenon which was faulty and had to be shelved.
I say it's sad, because now even more of the lovely children we love are going to be aborted. M
Jill thanks for shaing about "My Sister Alicia May" my 7 year old has Ds and she and her sisters love that book!
Last Christmas we gave baby Jesus a gift of a donation to Reece's Rainbow.

Posted by: Leticia Velasquez at July 16, 2009 4:33 PM

Why is the number of children placed by Reece's Rainbow so low? In four years I'd think more adoptions would have taken place...but I'm mainly ignorant of the adoption process...could someone help me out?

Posted by: Kat at July 16, 2009 5:45 PM

Leticia is my aunt's name. We call her Letty, though. It's one of my favorite names.


Posted by: Vannah at July 16, 2009 6:15 PM

Kat, remember that 90% of women who are told prenatally that their child has down syndrome abort.

Posted by: Lauren at July 16, 2009 7:21 PM

The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'

Matthew 25:40

Posted by: Jasper at July 16, 2009 8:14 PM

I'm sorry for your loss. I will keep your family in my prayers.

Posted by: Janet at July 16, 2009 8:48 PM


As is repeated again and again on the Reece's Rainbow website, the main reason more families don't go through with international adoption is the cost. Bear in mind also that Reece's Rainbow promotes ADDITIONAL adoptions of children with Down Syndrome by promoting awareness and raising funds; the most usual route for a family is still to decide independently that they want to adopt, and then go through the relevant country's procedure for choosing a child, rather than looking at an online photolisting first.

Posted by: Julia at July 17, 2009 10:52 AM

I underwent tests and 'genetic counseling' when I was pregnant with my daughter, but I refused amniocentesis, because of the risk of miscarriage and because, as I told the counselor "the results of the tests won't change anything.We want our baby and we love her, no matter what". BTW our daughter is a normal, healthy two year-old, and what a talker! :)

Posted by: Pamela at July 17, 2009 9:58 PM

"BTW our daughter is a normal, healthy two year-old, and what a talker! :) "


I did the same. I couldn't risk miscarriage, no matter how small the risk. The amnio tests aren't 100% accurate either.

Glad to hear your daughter is doing well. Does she take after her Mom? :^)

Posted by: Janet at July 17, 2009 10:05 PM

Posted by: Kat at July 16, 2009 5:45 PM

In answer to your question, another possible reason the # of international DS adoptions seems low has to do with the children's birth nation's policies. A few years ago my sister worked placing children in international adoptions and through her I learned that different countries allow different special needs children to be adopted. It was baffling, but for some countries, a child with a 'minor' special need, like a cleft palate or a nevus would be allowed to be adopted, but more serious conditions, no. If I remember correctly, Korea had a strict policy of not allowing adoption for dwarfism, DS and other conditions they (someone) deemed above that threshold. What adoptive parents were prepared and willing to do to care for these children had no bearing on the countries' standards.

Posted by: klynn73 at July 18, 2009 6:01 PM

I just found out that when my SIL was born almost 18 years ago, they performed a tubal ligation without consent on my MIL after realizing that my SIL had Down's.

My FIL and MIL wanted more children but were taken by surprise and never pursued the legal remedies at hand. But at our baby shower last week the story came out (for the first time, my husband didn't even know) and I felt so bad for my MIL for this utter violation... obviously they were worried she would produce more "defective" children.... what evil people.

Posted by: Elisabeth at July 19, 2009 6:00 AM


How horrible for them! Brings to mind some of early experiences the nurse turned midwife who wrote Babycatcher witnessed of the practice of sterilizing black women who'd just given birth. She reported the hospital staff would approach just-delivered women with something like, "Oh, that looked like it hurt!" "Bet you don't want to go through that again in another 9 months" and they'd sign a form and be sterilized without any clearer explanation---though it sounds like that was more than your MIL got.

Posted by: klynn73 at July 19, 2009 7:35 PM

The worst part is, they gave MIL a far higher dose of sedation after the c-section than necessary, THEN they had her sign a consent without telling her what it was for. And she had been a NURSE for over 15 years of her life and had worked with many of the very people who decided she shouldn't be allowed to have children again.

Posted by: Elisabeth at July 20, 2009 12:35 AM

I refused testing during the pregnancies with my four children for 2 reasons. I would accept whomever God gave me and if I knew I was carrying a child with Down syndrome or other problem, I would worry throughout my pregnancy. At the age of 40, I did give birth to my 4th child who has Down syndrome. The pregnancy was joyful, the birth was filled with anticipation of meeting my new son and then I learned the news. I did my share of grieving, but once I left the hospital, I'd given it over to God. Leticia's right, early testing is just another way to "get rid" of these "defective" children. JOhn Michael has taught us so much in his 20 months and is changing hearts and minds for the good wherever he goes. Looking forward to the book.

Posted by: Monica Crumley at July 20, 2009 10:14 AM

That's awful. I'm so sorry for your MIL and FIL. Do you think your MIL would be willing to go public with the story? It would certainly open some eyes to the extent of the pro-death mentality in our medical system.

Posted by: Janet at July 20, 2009 11:51 AM