Category Archives: Advocacy

Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day.  World Down Syndrome Day was established with the goal of raising awareness and generating support and recognition of the dignity, rights and well-being of people with Down syndrome across the world.  The date March 21st was chosen to symbolize the third copy of chromosome 21 present in Trisomy 21, the most common form of Down syndrome.  So let’s “Do Something Extra” to honor those with an extra 21st chromosome this World Down Syndrome Day.

I have a special place in my heart for people with Down syndrome.  I can’t tell you where it came from, but I am extremely passionate about educating people about the wonders and blessings of having a child with Down syndrome.

Before I had Harper, I volunteered for the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles.  During my time there I can across this lovely story that puts a positive spin on the diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Who knows why Down syndrome occurs?  Why does the extra 21st chromosome stick to the cell when the fertilized egg begins its first cell division?  It can be compared to what happens in nature to a field of clover.  Usually, we see 3 leaves on each clover.  Once in a while, however, we find a clover that has an extra leaf –- making it a four-leaf clover.  We don’t know why Mother Nature decided to add that extra leaf; she just did.  There is no obvious explanation -– all of the clover plants grew in the same soil, were exposed to the same sun and rain, etc.  Mother Nature just decided to add an extra leaf to one of the clover in the clover patch.  This doesn’t make it better or not as good as the other clover — it just makes it different.  Some people even believe it brings a person good luck when they find a four-leaf clover.  It is much the same way with the extra chromosome.  We don’t know why Mother Nature didn’t let the cell divide evenly, but she didn’t.  She decided to add another chromosome to that baby’s cells.  It doesn’t make the baby better or not as good as the other babies — it just makes him or her different.  And if you find one of those babies, you are truly lucky for they are very special babies — who grow into very special people.–Anonymous 

I believe that everything in life happens for a reason.  Down syndrome is a naturally occurring event and the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition.  Like the story mentions, no one knows why Down syndrome occurs, it just does.  Kind of like the color of our eyes, or our height.  We are born with a genetic code that determines how we will grow and develop.

The thing about Down syndrome is that the majority of people in this world have never met a person with Down syndrome.  Even though there are currently over 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States many people have never had the pleasure of working with or talking to a person with Down syndrome.  So they are unaware of the many wonderful strengths and talents that each individual with Down syndrome possesses.  And when it comes down to it, we all have more in common than we think.  People with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.  Check out this wonderful video that gives a small glimpse into the lives of a few individuals with Down Syndrome.

So how can you help celebrate World Down Syndrome day?  Pass on some of this information to a friend, family member or co-worker and help raise awareness of the abilities and achievements of people with Down syndrome.

Want to learn more?  Check out some of these sites for more information about Down Syndrome and how you can get involved:

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Spread the Word to End the Word

Are you familiar with the R-word?  I am talking about the word ‘retard(ed)’.  A word that was originally used as a medical term.  A word that over time has become synonymous for silly, stupid and dumb.  A word that ultimately hurts.

The word “retardation” began as a clinical diagnosis to label people with intellectual impairments.  However, in modern times it has morphed into a common phrase that people use as an insult for someone or something stupid.  For example, have you ever heard someone say, “You are so retarded” or “This is retarded”?  Even though the intent may not be to harm someone with a disability, using the word as a negative connotation reinforces the stereotype that people with intellectual disabilities are less valued members of society.

In attempt to raise people’s awareness of the hurtful effects of the R-word, Special Olympics and Best Buddies and their supporters launched the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.  The campaign, created by youth, is intended to engage schools organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

As someone who has worked with people with disabilities for nearly 15 years, I am very passionate about this movement.  I am a firm believer of the “people first language” and choose to see individuals for who they are instead of the labels they have been given.  I think it is important to focus on their abilities rather than their obstacles.  Celebrating people’s differences using respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities.

One of the most moving speeches I have ever heard on this subject was delivered by an 18-year-old high school student.  He discusses the power of words and helps drive the message home with some personal experiences.  Check it out!

So on this day of March 7, the official day of awareness for the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, I encourage you to act!  Take a personal pledge to support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech by clicking here.  Change begins with you.

Thank you for your support!

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