March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD). A global awareness day for Down syndrome. (October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month).
Why March 21st?
This particular day, 3/21, is recognized as World Down Syndrome Day because the most common form of Down syndrome, Trisomy 21, occurs when there are three copies of the 21st chromosome.
World Down Syndrome Day is a day to raise awareness about Down syndrome and to advocate for the rights of people with Down syndrome. It is also a day to celebrate people with Down syndrome! You can be an advocate whether you know someone with Down syndrome or not. Don’t feel like you know enough about Down syndrome to talk about it? Please ask! I would be MORE than willing to answer your questions, as would a lot of other people.
Some Quick Things About Down Syndrome
- A typical person (please use ‘typical’ and not ‘normal’) has 46 chromosomes in each cell of their body. Because of the triplicate copy of the 21st chromosome, a person with Down syndrome has 47 chromosomes in each cell.
- I don’t know a parent that has a child with Down syndrome that likes to hear the words ‘I’m sorry’ when someone learns that our children have DS. Please don’t say it. There is nothing to be sorry for! I adore my daughter, and I’m not at all sorry that she is mine!
- Did you know that most people with Down syndrome have low muscle tone? Children with DS have varying developmental delays and/or medical issues. While the severity of these delays varies from person to person, the most common is low muscle tone. What does that mean? Well, in my daughter’s case, that means that she walks flat-footed, and we regularly remind her to walk with her “quiet feet.” She also likes to sleep folded in half. No joke, she folds over like a clam shell and for her, that is comfortable! Her balance is different than her brothers. She now runs better and faster because she has strengthened her muscles through physical therapy. She eventually accomplishes these milestones, it just takes her a little longer, and she has to work even harder.
- We prefer ‘People First Language’. That means we always talk about the person BEFORE their disability because Down syndrome does not define WHO a person is; it only defines their disability. For example – instead of saying ‘a Down syndrome child,’ we say ‘a child with Down syndrome.’
- The R-word is so outdated and very offensive. There are so many other adjectives out there that you could use to describe something. Please try to eliminate this word from your vernacular. Teach your kids that it is not an acceptable word to describe a person, an object, or anything. I urge you to think about what you’re saying and what it means. Is there ever a good time to use it? No. There may not be anyone around at the time that you wouldn’t necessarily say it in front of, but there could be people around that may love someone with a disability. Please remember that.
You can learn more about Down syndrome by visiting the National Down Syndrome Society website. You can also learn more about my daughter Leilani’s very unique story here.
One of the fun traditions for WDSD is to wear bright, silly, or crazy socks to show your support. Wear your most colorful, fun, or even mismatched socks to celebrate our differences.
How You Can Participate in World Down Syndrome Day:
- Random acts of kindness – Many families celebrate by completing random acts of kindness as a way to raise awareness on this special day.
- Get Involved – Our local Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin chapter is fantastic – You can volunteer, get involved, or donate!
- Start a Conversation – about World Down Syndrome Day or just being kind to others!
- Rock Your Socks! – On March 21st, make sure you wear your silliest, mismatched, most brightly colored socks to support WDSD. Let’s show everyone that we are all different, but we can work together! Post online and make sure that you use the hashtags #LotsOfSocks and #WorldDownSyndromeDay