In honor of World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), I’m doing my part to bring global awareness to this very important cause that is also very close to my heart. Like many others across the world, I honor those with Down Syndrome (DS) each and every day for a number of reasons. My primary reason is because I have a beautiful younger sister with DS, and I want the world to know how incredibly strong she is.
What is Down Syndrome?
As defined on NDSS.org: “Down Syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. – A few of the common physical traits of Down Syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm – although each person with Down Syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.”
A Few Facts:
- People with Down Syndrome go to school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, have meaningful relationships, vote, and contribute to society in a multitude of amazing ways.
- All people with Down Syndrome experience some degree of cognitive delays, but the effect is usually mild and does not take away from of the many strengths and talents that each individual has.
- Children with DS will learn to walk, talk, and also be toilet trained, but they reach these milestones a bit later than their typical peers.
- Life expectancy for people with DS has increased exponentially. From the age of 9 in 1910, to age 25 in 1983, and to age 60 currently.
- People with DS can live very fulfilling and productive lives with the help of quality educational programs, therapy, and positive family & community support.
The Significance of March 21st
The United Nations World Assembly declared World Down Syndrome Day (#WDSD) to be observed on the 21st day of the 3rd month annually, which first began in 2012. This date was selected specifically to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down Syndrome.
- People with DS should always be referred to as people first. Refer to them as people before acknowledging the disability. They are human above all.
- DS is a condition, not a disease.
- People HAVE DS, they do not suffer from it or are they afflicted by it.
- There is no such thing as “normal.” Those who do not have DS are considered “typical.”
- “Mental Retardation” should never be used in any way, shape, or form. That term is hurtful and suggests those with DS are less than or incompetent.
It’s very important to remember that we should treat every person on this Earth with the same degree of respect, regardless if they are a person with Down Syndrome or another form of disability. We should never stare, point fingers, speak derogatory towards or laugh at a person who looks differently than we do because we have no idea how difficult their journey may or may not be. The manner in which we look at someone can create a difference as to how they view themselves. So, instead of looking at someone in a disparaging manner, let’s instead be mindful to flash them a smile to raise their self-esteem and build them up, not down. Let’s take the time to appreciate all the people who are travel this journey daily and find meaningful ways to get involved. Listed below are 5 campaigns to encourage engagement in WDSD awareness and their hashtags. (More Details Here)
- #MyFriendsMyCommunity – A call to action aimed to encourage people with DS to participate in events alongside family, friends, and members of their community. The purpose of this is to create inclusion for everyone.
- #LotsOfSocks – An invitation for everyone across the world to wear eccentric socks that stand out in the crowd or any socks that would draw attention towards you. The purpose of this is to spark enough interest to someone in public to ask you about them and you can then share information about WDSD.
- #BlueNailCrew – Encouraging you to paint your nails bright blue in honor of WDSD and the color of the awareness ribbon. Similar to #LotsOfSocks, the purpose of this is to be a conversation changer to talk about WDSD
- #SeeTheAbility – An invitation to make a short dance video while at work, class, with friends, or wherever you want to and then post it to social media using the hashtags #SeeTheAbility and #WorldDownSyndromeDay to spread awareness and show your support for this cause.
- #WDSD16 – Join the International Down Syndrome Collation in spreading random acts of kindness (WDSD RAK 16). Click here for ideas.
I pledge to honor all of the people with Down Syndrome today and every day. Not only are they people just like you and me, but they carry a heart so full of love that if you took the time to get to know them, you’d see what an incredible light they each bring into this world. My sister’s name is Lindsey and she is one of the most beautiful young women I’ve ever had the pleasure of loving. I ask that when you see Lindsey, please remember she is more than what you see on the outside. She is someone’s daughter, granddaughter, aunt, sister, cousin, friend, and above all … an extraordinary human being.