March 21 we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day
Special feature article by Giovanna Zambito Moses
Why celebrate on March 21?
World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated worldwide on March 21, because people with Down syndrome have three copies of the 21st chromosome. March 21 or 3/21 is set aside as a global day to raise awareness, acceptance, and access for people with Down syndrome.
Down syndrome (DS) is a genetic condition in which happens about once in every 700 births. People with DS may look different than people with only 46 chromosomes, but they are very much the same. They are capable of learning, loving and being an active part of society.
Intervention and education
With the advent of early infant intervention and education programs that allow for inclusion, students who have DS can be found in typical classrooms doing typical things and as adults they can hold typical jobs and lead typical lives.
Parents who find out their baby may have a little something extra genetically are given counseling about how raising a child with DS can be amazing! Sometimes the prospect of a prenatal diagnosis can be a bit overwhelming. World Down Syndrome Day is here to help spread the word that people with DS have a place in this world and that they are an important part of communities.
If you ever get told that you are in need of a hug from a person with Down syndrome, take it. They are the best hugs around.
Unique and special
Just because someone has DS, it doesn't mean they are like any other person with DS. There is just as much genetic variability in the DS community as there is in the rest of the population. Kids with down syndrome still look like people in their families, they have similar hair colors and skin colors. They are raised in those families and have the same laughs and interests. They have good days and bad days and aren't stereotypically always happy, but they are often happy.
Most people with DS do have some learning delays, but that doesn't mean they can't learn, they just learn at a different rate. Babies may be slower to reach typical infant milestones, but often children with DS still learn to walk, potty train, tie their shoes, ride a bike, and learn to read and write. Just like typical kids they have interests and hobbies and love birthday parties, music and dancing, and making people happy. Often it is said that they are more empathetic than people without DS and can really tell when someone needs a hug. If you ever get told that you are in need of a hug from a person with DS, take it. They are the best hugs around.
Teachers, Actors, Models, Religious and more
People with DS can be teachers, musicians, athletes, models, religious nuns, secretaries, aides, and even Hollywood actors. In fact, just last week James Martin won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film, An Irish Goodbye. There are no limits for individuals with DS. Yes, it's true that on that pesky little chromosome there is a little extra stubbornness, a few more medical risks, like hypothyroidism, leukemia or obesity. There is also more love and fun and willingness to be absolutely authentic. Taking time to learn things slowly may be a genetic benefit, not a disadvantage. Stopping to smell the roses and taking time for the extra hold in a good warm hug is a benefit we should never turn down.
You can't choose to be born with DS, and you can't pick if your brother or sister may have it or if a nephew or niece or uncle or aunt may get to be that lucky. But you can choose to love your friends and family with DS or friends who have people in their families who have Down Syndrome.
So, this March 21st, celebrate World Down Syndrome Day. Worldwide people will be wearing silly socks, or striped socks, like the stripes on a chromosome. It an easy thing to do to share with others that people with DS are indeed worthy of being celebrated and cherished. You can't choose to be born with DS, and you can't pick if your brother or sister may have it or if a nephew or niece or uncle or aunt may get to be that lucky. But you can choose to love your friends and family with DS or friends who have people in their families who have Down Syndrome.
Thank you, Giovanna, for bringing awareness to this topic. I need to go out and buy some socks! Friends, take photos of you and your socks and we'll share them.
For more information click on World Down Syndrome Day.