This post is about things you can do to help raise awareness and acceptance for Down syndrome. This post targets Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Developmental Disability Awareness Month and World Down Syndrome Day.
The ideas suggested in this post include both easier and harder ideas on how to focus your attention in the direction of (or within) our community.
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day and March is Developmental Disability Awareness Month
We are aware
We are aware that people with Down syndrome are the same as people without: deserving of equal rights, opportunities and privileges. We are aware of what features associated with Down syndrome look like, we are aware of discrimination and prejudice that is regularly leveled at people with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.
We are aware that the world is not often kind to people with Down syndrome – that people with Down syndrome can suffer horribly at the hands of people who do not accept them. Those hurting hands can belong to relatives, to members of the justice system, to acquaintances or strangers.
Yes, we are aware of this, and perhaps this is partly the fear that keeps women from choosing to have a child with Down syndrome, perhaps this awareness does more harm than good.
I want us to try to move beyond Down syndrome “awareness”. I want us to move into Down syndrome acceptance
Let’s try to put our awareness into action and actively accept people with Down syndrome. Let’s try and move two steps past our comfort zone, whatever that might be.
I have thought up some actionable items that you and yours can do in the course of this month in which we are making a focused effort to spotlight our community and individuals with Down syndrome. These are grouped together into levels: easy, medium and hard.
The easy level is something anyone can do. The require minimal effort.
The medium level is a little harder. The items in this group are items that require some effort, but have a bigger impact on the lives of people with Down syndrome and on our community.
The hard level is hard. But worth it. So if you really want to do this, hop on board!
All levels should your commitment to being an ally. We love you for it.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
1. Easy Stuff: What Everyone Can Do! Things That Really Help with Down Syndrome Awareness
a. Show Your Love with T-Shirts
T-shirts are wearable advocacy.
You are showing the world how you feel and what you believe in when you don some Down Syndrome Pride gear, and some tee’s (like the Chromosome T, or the “greater than” T) give you ample opportunity to explain some of the basics of Down syndrome to curious folk who wonder why you you wearing cheeto-looking-thingies.
b. Give Money or Donate
If you feel like giving money, I’d like to personally suggest a few places:
The National Down Syndrome Coalition has been doing AMAZING work!! SO. MUCH. GOOD> sign up for their action newsletter here, and check out their site. They are doing a tremendous amount for our community in Washington DC and elsewhere and need all of our help in these trying times.
They are the ones who produce the outstanding books on “Understanding a Down syndrome Diagnosis”. They do truly amazing work with outreach to physicians and expectant parents, and have recently released a Spanish-language booklet. Read more about their work here. The link to donate is here.
The National Down syndrome Adoption Network
This is totally grassroots and they literally accomplish life-changing feats on the slimmest of budgets. They can use support. The link to learn more about them is here. The link to donate is here.
3:21 – Ruby’s Rainbow
This is a scholarship fund for people with Down syndrome who want to go on to higher education. It’s pretty fantastic. Find out more and donate $21 here.
Down Syndrome Research
There are few organizations that do great work with researching Down syndrome – there is still SO MUCH we do not know about this syndrome, that would be really helpful to know. The links between Down syndrome and leukemia? Down syndrome and Alzheimers? What about that zero-impulse control piece, or visual learning in individuals with Down syndrome?
Here are some organizations to give to –
Down syndrome Diagnosis Network
The DSDN has one super-fantastic goal: to get their information out to local organizations, local Down syndrome clinics, doctor offices, Local DDD office (or service coordinator), Therapy clinics, local welcome basket programs, etc. Why is this so important? Because they provide (both online and in-real-life) networks and support for families, and help with updating the information that providers use regarding Down syndrome.
c. Promote & Support Down Syndrome Related Businesses
Here’s a list of Down syndrome owned businesses linked here.
Tune into this list: support the businesses therein, they all have a connection with Down syndrome.
2. The Medium Stuff : Things That Require More Time or Energy for Down Syndrome Acceptance
a. Make a Friend with Down Syndrome
How many of us actually have a friend with Down syndrome?
Use this month as an opportunity to take time to meet people with Down syndrome and open yourself to real friendship.
I am not talking about the prom-dance-thing; I’m not talking about going over to the Arc or your local Down syndrome Association for teen or adult night once.
I’m talking about going a few times and seeing what sparks up.
Open yourself to genuine friendship.
b. The Kindness Calendar
Like making a friend with Down syndrome, I don’t think the Kindness Calendar is medium-hard at all – it’s pretty easy.
I’m just putting them both in this section as they will require time,
The Kindness Calendar is about focusing on kindness throughout the month. This includes self-care and kindness to our own selves, and spreading that outward and on.
There’s a downloadable, printable pdf linked here.
3. The Hard Stuff – Things that Really Make a Long-Term Difference and Help with Down Syndrome Acceptance
a. Put Your Skills to Use
Can you offer to teach a skill to a person or small group of people with Down syndrome? Perhaps they might like to learn how to knit, learn ASL, or how to blog? Photography, sewing, ceramics?
Are you great with money? Can you run a course on that? How about working with people with Down syndrome and families on understanding ABLE accounts, benefits planning?
Think about your skill sets and figure out how and what you can contribute – reach out to your local EasterSeals, Arc, Down Syndrome Association, and commit some of your valuable time to teaching, mentoring, guiding and sharing your skill sets with your local Down syndrome community.
b. Hire: Jobs, Internships, Work Experience
Talk to a vocational counselor from the Department of Rehabilitation, or EasterSeals, Arc or your local non-profit that serves people with Developmental Disabilities about providing an internship or work experience for someone with Down syndrome.
Jobs and job skill development can be with child care help. Assistance with cleaning. Chores. Bicycle repair. Gardening. Filing. It can be with absolutely anything that you have a need to hire someone for and which someone with Down syndrome has expressed an interest in doing. Think outside the box; we’re only limited by what we can imagine.
If you are an organization (not just an individual), definitely work through Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and read this post, which is chock-full of great resources.
c. Partners in Policymaking
Understanding how to effectively advocate as well as so many pieces of disability culture, the disability rights movement and so forth will literally change your life.
Partners in Policymaking has an ONLINE course in all of this. I can’t recommend this highly enough.
Awareness Month – Down syndrome Acceptance Month
The shift from awareness to acceptance begins with us.
Move past the awareness.
Open your arms to acceptance.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.