Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Written by Down Syndrome Society of Wichita

The month of October brings with it many things, including the start of sweater weather, the final quarter of the year, and costume and candy preparations for Halloween. However, for many families, October brings about something much more significant and personal– Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Down Syndrome Awareness Month happens globally, as a month-long celebration of awareness, recognition, advocacy and acknowledgement of the great strides made in support of individuals with Down syndrome in our communities.

Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that happens when the 21st chromosome is replicated. Although most people are familiar with the most common type of Down syndrome (Trisomy 21), there are actually three different types. Trisomy 21 is the replication of the 21st chromosome in every cell. According to the CDC, 95% of all individuals with Down syndrome are born with this type. Mosaicism occurs when the 21st chromosome is replicated in some, but not all cells. Translocation occurs when the replicated 21st chromosome detaches and reattaches partly to another chromosome. All result in mild to moderate cognitive and intellectual delays, some growth challenges, and many times are marked by unique facial features. Even so, the similarities of those with Down syndrome don’t overshadow the uniqueness of each individual.

After five years of serving in a leadership capacity, one of the most fascinating things I’ve learned is just how individually distinct each person is. The individuality of every person is why organizations like ours recommend person first language. We refer to those served as an individual with Down syndrome, rather than a Down syndrome person. The condition does not define the capabilities of each person. I often say, “raise the bar, and people with Down syndrome will reach it.” They thrive in areas where they can reach a new goal, set a new limit and try for what they consider success.

One of my favorite things to do is learn of the hopes and aspirations that individuals and their caregivers have, which are often similar to their typical peers. We serve individuals who have the desire to marry and get jobs, move out independently and be contributing members of society. We serve families who want the opportunity to see their child in their upcoming band concert, or celebrate the first steps or the first words. These milestones happen. Sometimes at various stages, but they happen.

This month and every month, we invite the world to recognize those with Down syndrome. Perhaps it could be a simple chat at the store, or even asking a question of a caregiver. Maybe there is an opportunity to advocate and speak up, or to create a new chance for someone to succeed. Whatever it may be, our organization will be here to celebrate connect, advocate, develop and support inclusion this month, and every month for these individuals who bring so much light and joy to our world.

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