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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: October has traditionally been Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and has been so declared by the National Down Syndrome Congress.

Because I have so often heard from parents or grandparents of babies born with various disabilities, I thought that the following might be helpful.

It is important to remember that no one can predict at birth how far your child will go, or what your child will be able to achieve. Therefore, each child should be given the opportunity to reach his or her full potential -- whatever that might be.

For information on Down syndrome, and to be put in touch with the local Down syndrome organizations, contact the National Down Syndrome Congress, 1800 Dempster St., Park Ridge, Ill. 60068-1146; telephone: (800) 232-6372.

Readers, because one of the most difficult tasks parents of a Down syndrome child must face is making the initial announcement to family and friends, I offer this beautiful birth announcement as a guideline.

On the birth of their second daughter, Hannah Marie, Greg and Janet Roy of Mesa, Ariz., sent the following announcement:

"July, 1990

"Dear Friends and Family: Our beautiful second daughter, Hannah Marie, was born July Fourth. We want to add a personal note to this announcement because we would like you to know that Hannah was born with Down syndrome.

"In the last few days, we have experienced many ranges of emotions and have learned a great deal about all the positive ways Down syndrome can affect our daughter and our family.

"Hannah is a beautiful, responsive baby, and we hope you will accept her into your hearts without pity or reservations. Please don't feel that you have to pretend that she is `normal,' and please feel free to ask us any questions you may have about her.

"With God's help, we hope Hannah will grow up strong and healthy. We want you to share in the joy of her progress along the road to maturity. She may travel that road a little more slowly than the others, but we will consider each new milestone in her life a blessing.

"Though our hurt and disappointment may still be fresh, we know that God has placed Hannah in our home and in our hearts for a very special purpose. We also know that our lives will be enriched by all the special gifts Hannah was meant to bring to her friends and family. Her presence has already filled our home with much happiness. Please celebrate her birth with us. Sincerely, Greg, Janet and Emily"

DEAR ABBY: After reading the following item in the newspaper, I no longer hand-carry gifts to weddings:

"Two gentlemen, handsomely attired in tuxedos, appeared at a fashionable wedding at a country club. The guests on the bride's side assumed the gentlemen had been invited by the groom's family, and the guests on the groom's side assumed they had been invited by the bride's family. The tuxedoed gentlemen took charge of all the wedding gifts by placing them on a table near the cloakroom. During the evening, the gentlemen transferred all the wedding gifts to a van, and that's the last anyone saw of the gentlemen -- and the gifts." -- TRUE STORY, PALM BEACH, FLA.

By popular request, Abby shares more of her favorite prize-winning, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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