Updated: Oct 28
World Down syndrome day is here! It's time for those of us with Down syndrome or who know someone with Down Syndrome to advocate and celebrate those with Trisomy 21. In honor of World Down syndrome day, here are 21 things that you can do for that extraordinary someone with an extra chromosome.
1. Educate Yourself
Down syndrome is not a disease and no one suffers from Down syndrome. Down syndrome is an atypical genetic condition in which the individual has 3 copies of the 21st chromosome instead of 2 like typical individuals. Down syndrome is the most common genetic anomaly in the United States with approximately 1 in 700 babies born with the extra chromosome . With that said, people with Down syndrome (referred to as DS from now on) do have a tendency towards a number of different medical issues ranging from hypothyroidism to leukemia. Although people with DS are more likely to experience medical issues, this doesn't mean that all individuals with DS do.
Take the time to reach out to someone with DS and ask them about their experiences. It is our job to help society become more open and inclusive. The only way that we can do this is by listening to the experiences of others, experiences which are usually completely foreign to our own. This opens up our minds to a world that we may not have known existed otherwise. Before I had a daughter with DS, I was grossly ignorant of the syndrome. I understood about the genetic abnormality but I never took the time to go into detail about what that meant for the individual living with it, although I had friends throughout my life who had DS. Listening to the experience of a person with DS might just help you reach a new and much needed understanding of the syndrome.
3. Check Your Pity At The Door
I'm thankful that society is becoming more inclusive but there is still much work to be done. There is a tendency in our society for a person to apologize upon learning that a parent has a child with DS. Whenever I tell someone new about my daughter's DS, I get the customary "I'm sorry". My reply? "I'm not. Why are you?" People with DS don't need our pity nor do they want it. A 2011 study showed that of the people with DS surveyed, a whopping 99% of them were happy with their lives! . If they aren't pitying themselves, then neither should we.
4. Be an Advocate
People with DS need someone who will stand in their corner and fight for them, not because they aren't able to do so themselves, but because we all need to support one another. Currently, there are only around 400,000 people in the United States with DS . Though that may seem like a substantial number, there are approximately 326 million people in the United States at this moment. Think of how powerful our voice could be if we joined as one in solidarity for the rights of individuals with DS.
5. Go Dancing
People with DS love music just as much as any one else (and if you ask my daughter she may say that she loves it more!). Going out to dance with a person with DS will be a fun way to get to know a new friend while also getting in much needed exercise. Some studies suggest that people with DS don't get enough exercise, which could lead to harmful effects like added weight gain and obesity. Dancing is a great way to combat this while having loads of fun!
6. Go the Gym with a Person with DS
On the note of exercise, you can encourage a person with DS to exercise more frequently by accompanying them to the gym. People with DS have a much greater chance of developing early dementia due to the increased oxidative stress of having an extra copy of chromosome 21. A 2016 study showed that exercising at least 30 minutes twice a week improved memory .
7. Wear Your Crazy Socks or Shoes!
World Down Syndrome Day is meant to be a fun day to bring attention to those who have DS. Wearing fun mismatched socks will bring attention to your feet and have people asking you "what's going on?" When they ask, you can tell them that the socks represent our unique differences just like people with DS are unique.
8. Post Pictures to Social Media
Let the world, or at least the virtual world, know that you are celebrating World Down Syndrome Day by posting pictures of you and your loved ones. Post pictures of your crazy socks, of your blue and yellow ribbons, of anything positive and fun that will get the attention of your social network to bring attention to DS.
9. Tell Your Children About DS
Our children are smart. They know when someone isn't "like them" and they will take our cues on how to respond to someone who they think is different. It is our job to teach our children that there are many different kinds of people in the world and each of us are unique and valuable. A good way to talk to children about DS is to tell them about what people with DS can do. Children won'