Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member
October is known nationally as Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Many people do not know much about this diagnosis, and it is important to recognize this month in order to counteract all of the negativity surrounding Down syndrome. Here are just a few suggestions to help you celebrate:
For Parents of Children with Down Syndrome
Spread the Word on Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are great outlets for sharing information regarding Down syndrome. You could post about Down Syndrome Awareness Month (including, of course, an awesome photo of your loved one with Down syndrome!), and ask your family and friends to share it. We want to let everyone know that individuals with Down syndrome are equal members of our communities and they should be regarded as such. Social media is an important tool in sharing this message.
Speak to Your Children’s Classes
In my personal experience, we have been fortunate to be invited to speak to my son Alex’s classmates about Down syndrome. We provided basic information to the kids to help them understand that Alex is more like them than he is different. We also provided an information sheet for the kids to take home to their parents, which included our email addresses so the parents knew they were welcome to contact my husband or I if their children had additional questions after the presentation.
There are many great titles, for all ages, which would be valuable assets to the school library, your church, community organizations, and your children’s teachers and therapists. Presenting these resources as gifts can enable many people to expand their knowledge of Down syndrome and the matters surrounding it.
For Community Members
Educate Yourself and Others
Down Syndrome Awareness Month is a great opportunity to learn more about Down syndrome, and help others understand exactly what it is. You can find a list of resources to help you understand more about Down syndrome from The National Down Syndrome Society and the National Down Syndrome Congress
What better way to learn more about Down syndrome than to help those in the community? You can help out at your local Buddy Walk® event, or contact your city’s Down syndrome organization to inquire about other volunteer opportunities.
Individuals with Down syndrome truly are more like anyone else than they are different. Inclusion is an imperative factor in spreading this message. The next time you see an individual with Down syndrome in your community, smile at them and say hello. If your child has a classmate with Down syndrome, invite them for playdates and to birthday parties. If you have questions about that child, it is much better to reach out to his or her parents instead of excluding them based on an assumption that they are not able to participate in activities that typical children might enjoy. These seemingly small gestures will mean the world to families with loved ones who have Down syndrome, and will also help you learn more about those around you.
Of course, there are many other fantastic ideas for celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month. How will your family celebrate? Please share your ideas in the comments below, or on the ds-connex Facebook page, or share via Twitter. We can’t wait to hear about it!