After McCain Spoke of Autism, Palin Talks of Down Syndrome
By Juliet Eilperin
ELON, N.C. -- GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin speaks about the fact that her infant son has Down syndrome at each and every campaign stop, but today, she also gave her audience an inside glimpse of the wry humor used by families living with the condition.
In the middle of her speech before an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand here at Elon University this afternoon, Palin declared, "I love that poster over there. It says, 'Extra chromosome equals extra love.'"
The poster referred to the fact that Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder in which a child is born with all or part of an extra 21st chromosome.
Palin went onto explain that she and her husband Todd recently received a bumper sticker from a support group for families with a Down syndrome child that riffed off the traditional bumpers that boasts how a child has better grades or is better at sports than the one riding in the car behind it.
"This one said, 'My kid has more chromosomes than your kid,'" Palin recounted.
During last night's debate, however, GOP presidential candidate John McCain seemed the blur the distinction between Down syndrome and autism, a brain development problem that impedes a child's communication and social skills. At one point during the debate, when McCain was praising his running mate, he said, "She understands that autism is on the rise, that we've got to find out what's causing it, and we've got to reach out to these families, and help them, and give them the help they need as they raise these very special needs children."
Then, a few minutes later, he added, "And I just said to you earlier, town hall meeting after town hall meeting, parents come with kids, children -- precious children who have autism. Sarah Palin knows about that better than most. And we'll find and we'll spend the money, research, to find the cause of autism. And we'll care for these young children. And all Americans will open their wallets and their hearts to do so."
McCain was not mixing up the two disorders, according to Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.
"McCain speaks often of autism because he has seen families who are deeply affected and he knows that the Palin family has been affected in a similar way by having a beautiful baby with special needs," she wrote in an e-mail. "He was drawing a parallel between parents of children with special needs."
Posted at 5:55 PM ET on Oct 16, 2008
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