October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time to celebrate people with Down syndrome and their abilities, as well as a time to educate and inform people about resources and fundraising opportunities for the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition there is. Here are 5 ways that you can support someone with Down syndrome and their families.
Learn more about Down syndrome
What is Down syndrome? According to to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, “Down syndrome is the most frequently occurring chromosomal disorder and the leading cause of intellectual and developmental delay in the U.S.and the world.” It occurs when someone has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.
Though there are particular physical characteristics of Down syndrome (such as cognitive delays and an increased risk of certain medical conditions), Down syndrome does not define the people who are born with it. People with Down syndrome have fulfilling lives, attending school and work, developing meaningful relationships, voting, and contributing to society.
Purchase a ribbon, or take part in fundraising walks or events
Down syndrome awareness is represented with a blue and yellow ribbon. According to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, Down syndrome is the least-funded genetic condition in the United States. Consider participating in a charity walk to support Down syndrome advocacy. The National Buddy Walk Program offers events all across the country throughout the year.
Give developmentally appropriate gifts to friends or family members with Down syndrome
There is a spectrum of abilities in children who have Down syndrome, but it is often characterized by difficulty with cognitive ability, speech & language and fine motor skills. There are plenty of materials out there to help a child develop these skills, including toys:
Join or support an organization that supports Down syndrome
We have been particularly inspired by Adele’s Over the Rainbow Baskets. Started by Krista Rowland-Collins and modeled after Beau’s Baskets of Hope, this organization makes welcome/congratulation baskets for families who have a baby born with Down syndrome in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada. The baskets include gifts and resources for the family. Krista started the organization because she felt families of children born with Down syndrome deserved a warm welcome for their baby instead of a message they too often get of “I’m sorry, there’s something wrong with your child.”
Here are four large national organizations focused on Down syndrome:
Global Down Syndrome Foundation
Dedicated to significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through research, medical care, education and advocacy.
National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC)
Provides information, advocacy and support for all aspects of the lives of individuals with Down syndrome and works to ensure equal rights and opportunities for people with Down syndrome.
National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS)
Works to promote the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. Works with Congress and federal agencies to protect the rights of people with Down syndrome, and educates individuals to advocate on local, state and national levels.
Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action (DSAIA)
A national trade association made up mostly of local Down Syndrome organizations, DSAIA’s purpose is to serve their affiliates through collaboration, resource sharing, and networking.
Talk to your child about kindness and embracing differences and diversity
Perhaps the most lasting way you can make an impact this Down Syndrome Awareness Month is by talking to your children about being kind and embracing differences and diversity. This “Just Like You” video from the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City is a helpful jumping off point for a conversation.
It is when we learn to see beyond labels and diagnoses that we learn to truly value each other for our uniqueness and strengths that we bring to the larger community. Teaching our children these lessons at a young age will prepare them for a life of kindness, empathy, and joy.