March 21st, marks International Down Syndrome Awareness Day. In this video you can see a story about Daniel, an 8-year old boy with trisomy 21 who was among the very first children to use our app Speech Blubs.
The success he experienced with our app is simply remarkable, and the joy his mother felt at seeing his progress takes our breath away. If you are aware of someone who might benefit from using Speech Blubs like Daniel, by all means share this post or video with them.
Whenever there is an awareness day, one agreed upon and determined by the international community, I always ask myself about exactly what should we be so aware?
For instance, on January 4th, World Braille Day, is it enough to be aware that Braille exists? Or is it rather our goal to understand how drastically profound a difference the introduction of Braille made in the blind community?
Similarly, on Nelson Mandela Day, are we just supposed to be aware of Nelson Mandela’s existence and the things he accomplished or deserved? How can we take such awareness to another level? Well, here are the words of the Mandela Day’s campaign message:
“Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes… We would be honored if such a day can serve to bring together people around the world to fight poverty and promote peace, reconciliation, and cultural diversity.”
The answer thus seems clear: we should use awareness days not just to superficially register that something exists, but also to understand how its existence affects us, and how our own existence affects it back.
Without further ado, some of the most important things to realize on Down Syndrome Awareness Day:
1) Down syndrome is something to be understood, not cured.
Treat people with Down syndrome just like we treat people without it: respectfully, empathetically, and helpfully. A helping hand, a kind word, and clearly demonstrating that we consider someone our equal is the right way to approach every fellow human, not just ones with Down or other syndromes.
2) Down syndrome is by no means a life sentence; breakthroughs happen and they can be beautiful.
As you will see in the video below, having Down syndrome does not dictate the course of one’s life. Just like anyone in the world, people with Down syndrome live, learn, and change over time. Sometimes they can experience true breakthroughs or insights in their understanding and interaction with the world, often with spectacular results.
3) People with Down syndrome have the same emotions as the rest of us, but might have trouble expressing those emotions.
Humans are social creatures. We all crave warmth, camaraderie, approval, empathy, and understanding. Those living with Down syndrome are no different.
So, what’s the absolute best thing we can do to show awareness about Down syndrome? Be kind, be warm, be accepting, and be excellent.
Be wonderful today, and be aware of it.