Next Tuesday, March 21 is a day recognized as World Down Syndrome Day. By my recollection this is probably my third time writing about this day. It’s a day close to my heart as my older sister Sheila has Down Syndrome.
If you don’t know what Down Syndrome is, according to the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS), “Down syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has always existed and is universal across racial, gender, and socio-economic lines. One in every 781 babies born in Canada has Down syndrome. Down syndrome is associated with chromosome 21 and there are three types: Trisomy 21, Translocation, and Mosaicism.”
Trisomy 21 is the reason that March 21, (3/21) has been declared as Down Syndrome Day.
There are a few characteristics that can present in people with Down Syndrome. Some people have intellectual disabilities, some have delays in development of speech and motor skills, physical characteristics are probably most obvious like characteristic facial features and short stature.
While Down Syndrome can cause intellectual disabilities there are many people with it who have been very successful. Just last Sunday at the Academy Awards a short film called An Irish Goodbye starring a young man with Down Syndrome won the Oscar for Best Short Film.
Also last week the film Champions starring Woody Harrelson as a disgraced semi-professional basketball coach under a court order to coach a team of players with intellectual disabilities was released. The film also stars a Canadian named Madison Tevlin who also has Down Syndrome. Tevlin went viral several years ago with her interpretation of John Legend’s All of Me and has since used her platform to show the world what people with Down Syndrome can do.
In 2020 Chris Nikic became the first person with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman Triathlon. Chris uses his platform to encourage others to get “one per cent better every day.”
Last weekend my sister was bowling at the provincial Special Olympics games back in Newfoundland. It was great to see some pictures of her and her friends. She volunteers with her church and works occasionally at a local social enterprise in St. John’s that offers work for people with intellectual disabilities.
In partnership with business and employment focused social media platform LinkedIn, the CDSS has launched an initiative called “Inployable.”
According to CDSS over 50 per cent of people with Down Syndrome can’t find a paying job. They are attempting to build a network to “increase the visibility of an overlooked and underrepresented workforce that can help to solve the current labour shortage.”
Because of the varied ranges of ability that people with Down Syndrome have, there are a wide array of jobs that they can do. This Inployable network is looking to connect people with Down Syndrome with people who need employees.
People with Down Syndrome are smart, creative, athletic and have feelings all in their own way just like everyone else. Many of them can live long fulfilling and successful lives, getting married and going to university or college.
Next week there are a few things you can do on Tuesday honour the day. One way that the day is celebrated is the Lots of Socks campaign. People wear odd or brightly coloured socks as a way to raise awareness. Another way to honour the day is to commit to ending the ‘R’ word. Re—ed has long been used as a word to refer to people with intellectual disabilities like Down Syndrome but people often use it as an insult. For several years now the campaign to end the ‘R’ word has been working to show people that there are better words to use.