Saturday, March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day, an annual event celebrated since 2006 and officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. According to its website, the 21st day of March (the third month of the year) was chosen because it symbolizes the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome, whch causes Down syndrome.
This year’s theme is We Decide, which is a call for everyone to fully involve those with Down syndrome in decision-making matters that relate to or affect their lives. “Effective and meaningful participation is a core human rights principle supported by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” reminds the website.
What can we do to make this day relevant to us and those with Down syndrome?
Inform yourself and others.
According to mayoclinic.org, Down syndrome “is a genetic disorder caused when abnormal cell division results in an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21.” This results in children developing distinct facial features (flattened face, small head, short height and neck, upward slanting eyes, poor muscle tone, among others) and mild to moderate cognitive impairment. Advanced maternal age, carrying the genetic translocation of Down syndrome, or being the parents of a child with Down syndrome all contribute to the risk of conceiving a child with Down syndrome. But in truth, parents who don’t have any of these risk factors have also been known to give birth to children with Down syndrome.
In other words, no one is to blame.
Treat people with Down syndrome with respect and dignity. Simply refer to them as “persons with Down syndrome.” Remove words like “disability,” “abnormal,” “suffering from,” “a victim of,” and “afflicted with” from your vocabulary.
Support organizations that support Down syndrome.
Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines Inc. (DSAPI)
It was founded in 1992 by parents of children with Down syndrome who came together in their quest for answers and solutions. In a story for Inquirer, DSAPI chair Elmer Lapeña wrote that the association has partnered with big-name companies like Unilab, South Star Drug, and Shakey’s to include persons with Down syndrome in their workforce. The SM Group has also supported the association’s annual Happy Walk for 10 years. DSAPI also organizes Tee Up for Down, a fundraising golf tournament to aid the association’s various initiatives.
Best Buddies Philippines
The local arm of the US non-profit founded in 1989, has been creating “opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities” since 2014, says its website. Michelle Aventajado, executive director of Best Buddies Philippines and herself a mom of a daughter with Down syndrome, leads numerous initiatives for its ambassadors. A Friendship Program ties you up with a person with intellectual and developmental disabilities; a Leadership Program chooses potential leaders in the community and hones their skills; and a Jobs Program assists persons with Down syndrome seeking employment.
A beauty pageant for young women with special needs, was founded by Suzanne Pavadee Vicheinrut Yuzon, 2003 winner of Mrs. World and two-time winner of Mrs. Thailand. Since 2015, the pageant has served as both a platform for building self-confidence among young women with different needs and an awareness campaign to redefine the meaning of beauty.