World Down Syndrome Day: March 21
March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day. It’s celebrated across the globe to shed light on Down syndrome and recognize the dignity, rights, and well-being of people who have it. The day was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome.
This year, Down Syndrome International (DSI) is asking us all to think about, “What does inclusion mean? Are you helping to promote inclusion in your community?” While access and inclusion have improved over the years, there is still more work to do. The reality is that people with Down syndrome and disabilities still face challenges and barriers to be included fully in our society.
Why do these barriers still exist? Misconceptions about individuals with Down syndrome and a poor understanding about inclusion gaps likely contribute.
What is Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder where a person has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two. Here are some other facts about Down syndrome:
- The average lifespan is around 60 years today, a significant increase from what it used to be.
- Although people with Down syndrome have physical and intellectual delays from birth, there is a wide range of abilities within the population.
- A growing number of people with Down syndrome are living independently.
- People with Down syndrome are predisposed to certain medical conditions including congenital heart defects, sleep apnea, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- There may be an increased risk of celiac disease, autism, childhood leukemia, and seizures.
- Appropriate medical care for individuals with Down syndrome can make a huge difference in their physical and intellectual development.
- Early intervention for babies with Down syndrome is important. Therapies in their first five years can make a huge difference.
Individuals with Down syndrome should have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life and realize their life aspirations. They should be seen as valued members of their communities and have the right to be included and take part in society. DSI calls this, “inclusive participation” and describes it as:
- Having access to information in a way that can be understood;
- Having the opportunity to share their unique ideas, experiences, and knowledge just like everyone else;
- Have the time, support, and adjustments needed to take part.
Simply, inclusive participation is about removing the barriers that still exist for individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities.
At Fisher-Titus Medical Center, we are committed to helping individuals with Down syndrome or other disabilities maximize their potential and improve access to the world around them. We offer a variety of treatments and services to help:
Physical Therapy: Activities and exercises that help build motor skills, increase muscle strength, and improve posture and balance. A physical therapist can also help a child with Down syndrome compensate for any physical challenges.
Speech therapy: Helps improve their communication skills and use language more efficiently. A speech therapist can help them develop skills necessary for communication and even help infants with breastfeeding as that can help build muscles used for speech. The therapist can work with the child to develop alternate forms of communication like sign language or pictures. Learning to communicate is an ongoing process so these therapies are often beneficial as children with Down syndrome enter school and even later in life.
Occupational Therapy: Helps adjust everyday tasks and conditions to match a person’s needs and abilities. This can help individuals with Down syndrome learn self-care skills like eating, getting dressed, writing, and using a computer. The occupational therapist can also suggest tools to help improve everyday functions. As the child grows and enters high school, the therapist may help teenagers find jobs, careers, or skills that match their interests and strengths.
Emotional and Behavioral Therapies: Children with Down syndrome may become frustrated, develop compulsive behaviors, and have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other mental health issues. The therapists can help understand why a child is acting out, create strategies for avoiding or preventing these situations, and teach positive ways of responding.
For more information on physical, occupational or speech therapy, call 419-660-2700 or talk to your child’s primary care provider about a referral. For more information on emotional or behavioral therapy, visit fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.