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Raising Awareness on World Down Syndrome Day and Beyond

World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated across the globe in more than 60 countries on March 21.

The purpose of this special day is to raise awareness and increase understanding. Down syndrome (Ds) is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21. With Ds affecting one in every 800 births (400,000 people in the U.S.), it is critical that this message be conveyed to allow others in our community to display tolerance, patience, kindness and respect. This is also an exciting day for my family as it lets us share our story with others.

My family and I have been proud to call Westchase home for the last 14 years. Eight years ago, my husband and I welcomed our first child, Paisley, into the world at 26 weeks gestation. Shortly after her birth, it was determined that she had Ds. This was the most difficult time in our lives, as we didn’t know what the prognosis would be for our baby. Would she live? Would she have long-term medical issues? Would she have friends one day? Would teachers see her potential and abilities? These questions were overwhelming, so we decided to focus on all our blessings and living one day at a time. Paisley has been resilient since birth!

Raising a baby and a toddler with Ds can pose many challenges. You always wonder if you are doing enough and getting the right services. Although those challenges paled in comparison to some of the challenges we, as a family, face now that she is in elementary school. Unbeknownst to us, there were still people in our community who held onto outdated, hurtful and negative stereotypes towards individuals with Ds.

Research has shown that children with Ds benefit from being placed in a regular education class, receiving their education alongside typically developing children. Typically developing peers give children with Down syndrome the role models they need to acquire new skills, encourage age-appropriate behavior, develop independence and build friendships. 

This classroom structure isn’t only beneficial for the child with special needs; it is also helpful to your child! Studies have shown that inclusion is beneficial to the other children in the class. Inclusion facilitates greater understanding, patience and compassion, as well as learning to be supportive of one another. Children also learn to value diversity and to appreciate that everyone has something beneficial to bring to the life of the school and the community.

Although we have hit a few bumps in the road as it relates to Paisley’s school experience, these hurdles have fueled my passion about spreading the word that the things people say and do matter. Accepting others with different abilities is important to the success of our schools and our community.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, people with Ds can and do make meaningful contributions throughout their lives, whether in schools, workplaces, communities, public and political life, culture, media, recreation and sport.

People with Ds can attend college, get married, live independently and have many skills and talents, just like you.

Some children with Ds have difficulties with verbal communication. It may also take them a little longer to learn academic skills. Be kind with your words – kids understand everything you or your child say about them. If you are teaching your children that, “People like her,” belong somewhere else, you, your children or classroom are missing out on a great experience!

Your child can be a good friend by getting to know children with Ds or other varying abilities. Play and talk to them like any other friend. Find out what your friend likes to do and hang out together. You will find that you are more alike than different.

Thank you for the opportunity to share and thank you for celebrating with us!

By Shannon Moss


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