Down Syndrome Awareness Month
“Down syndrome isn't something to be scared of. People with Down syndrome want the same things as all of us…they want to be loved and accepted” -- Jessica, mother of 2-year old Dominic.
Did you know that, according to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), 1 in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, making it the most common genetic condition? Even though it is so common, there are still many myths surrounding this condition which affect how we interact with our own neighbors who happen to be individuals with Down syndrome.
One myth that many of us who attended public school students can disprove surrounds the segregation of children with Down syndrome in special education programs. At just 2 months of age, Andrew was receiving regular visits from a representative of the public school district to do physical, mental and occupational therapy. His sister Cindy, who was in high school at the time, recalls how pleasantly surprised she was at the programs available to Andrew and her family.
Now 25 years old, Andrew has successfully completed a work-life training program through the Omaha Public School System and recently moved into a group house. Speaking of her younger brother and his love for movies, Cindy mentions how his job at the local AMC Theater is a “dream come true”. She talks about the large number of fellow movie lovers who stop and take the time to interact with him, which means a lot.
“People with Down syndrome know they’re different,” said Cindy. “Their only expectation is that people treat them with the respect that they deserve.”
While talking about her youngest, Jessica, a recent co-chair of The Buddy Walk by the Sea in Falmouth, MA, calls Dominic the “glue that holds [our family] together” and wants people to know Down syndrome is not something to be scared of.
“I’ve met some really amazing people with Down syndrome. People that have accomplished more than I have in my life,” said Jessica. “People with Down syndrome should be celebrated. Inclusion is so very important because it empowers them to be the best that they can be.”
Jessica, while mentioning the early intervention programs her son is already involved with, points out that Down syndrome can mean any number of either physical or cognitive delays. Dominic’s delays involve his fine and gross motor skills while his cognitive skills are age appropriate.
“One of my proudest moments with Dominic was a little over a week ago when Dominic stood up in the middle of the floor and took two steps towards me, and as he fell into my arms he said ‘I did it!’,” Jessica said. “With tears in my eyes I hugged him like crazy as Brian, Cydnee and I cheered like crazy. When Dominic meets a milestone it is something to be celebrated. It may take him longer, but it makes his achievements that much sweeter.”