Why Down Syndrome Awareness Month is Important
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month – a fact that sometimes has people asking, “Who ISN’T aware of Down syndrome?”
It’s true that Down syndrome is far and away the most common condition involving chromosomes. It occurs in about 1 in every 691 births, with more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the U.S. today, according to the CDC, and many of us are at least somewhat familiar with it and have probably met at least one person who has it.
The month of awareness started in the 1980s by the National Down Syndrome Society. The express goal was to spread awareness as well as greater understanding about Down syndrome and to promote advocacy and foster inclusion throughout the community.
It’s about focusing on the abilities rather than the disabilities of those with this condition.
It’s also about looking beyond just the facts. For example, here are some truths:
- About 6,000 babies are born each year in the U.S. with Down syndrome.
- The prevalence of Down syndrome increases with a mother’s age.
- The condition is associated with distinct facial features, intellectual disability and delays in physical growth.
- About half of people with Down syndrome also have a congenital heart defect.
- People with Down syndrome are also more prone to hearing loss, ear infections, obstructive sleep apnea, eye diseases, poor eyesight and intestinal blockages at birth requiring surgery.
That’s all true information, but it doesn’t really give us the full picture, which is that kids born with Down syndrome can absolutely live long and happy lives and be functioning, contributing members of society.
Down Syndrome Awareness Month is about encouraging more people to learn about this condition, to celebrate those living with it and to recognize the ways in which medical advancements can and do increasingly boost their quality of life.
The Fight for Rights & Services
Down syndrome wasn’t classified until 1862, when an English doctor first differentiated it from mental disabilities. If only naming it had improved conditions for those who had it. Historically, many people who had Down syndrome were treated horribly, and it wasn’t uncommon in the 20th century for them to be institutionalized. Rarely did they receive appropriate care for medical complications like heart disorders, intestinal problems or vision defects.
In the 1940s, life expectancy for a child with Down syndrome was only 12. In the 1980s, it was 25. Now, it’s 60.
In the 1960s and 1970s, there weren’t any mandated services or programs for kids with special needs. It was a grassroots effort by parents in cities like Chicago that fought vigorously for rights, recognition, education and early intervention services both at the local and national level.
Now, we have laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. We also have the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which makes free, appropriate public education available to children with disabilities and ensures special education and related services.
Here in Northeast Ohio, our team at Therapy & Wellness Connection offers a broad range of services all in one location – speech, occupational, physical & ABA therapy, as well as homeschooling, tutoring, social skills groups and vocational services. We can also bring these services to you, and some can be done virtually.
People With Down Syndrome Can Live Rich, Full Lives
Although children with Down syndrome will experience developmental and learning delays and possibly health problems, those born with this condition can grow up to be happy, independent adults. What is most important is what happens after birth. Early intervention therapy (speech therapy, occupational therapy and sometimes ABA and physical therapy) is an essential part of that.
They may need additional help to learn to speak, to learn, to get a job, to navigate friendships and relationships – but there is no question that they can do and have these things.
Our team of dedicated therapists at Therapy & Wellness Connection is committed to helping children with Down syndrome and their families navigate the challenges, celebrate the victories and achieve their greatest potential.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education & vocational services and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Special Olympics
More Blog Entries:
Questions to Ask Your Child’s New Cleveland Speech Therapist, Feb. 3, 2020, Cleveland Speech Therapy Blog