In honor of National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I wanted to disperse some information about the 400,000 people in the US living with Down syndrome.
These individuals are amazing human beings, just like you and me.
The more you understand about a person with Down syndrome, the more helpful and compassionate you can be toward him or her.
1. It isn't an illness.
Down syndrome is not an illness.
The extra chromosome that comes with having Down syndrome can cause a variety of disabilities that may range in severity.
But, it isn't a sickness or disease. It is not contagious in any way.
2. People with Down syndrome lead successful lives.
With a great support system, people with Down syndrome can do amazing things and lead fulfilling, purposeful lives.
Each person with Down syndrome has different dreams and aspirations. With the right education and training, those with Down syndrome are able to achieve any of them.
3. It may be a bit more difficult to communicate with someone who has Down syndrome.
Low muscle tone is a symptom of Down syndrome.
This affects the muscles in the body and in the mouth.
This can make it a bit hard to understand a person with Down syndrome, but that’s okay.
Understanding someone who speaks a little differently just takes time. It’s completely appropriate to ask your friend or relative with Down syndrome to slow down and repeat what he or she has said.
Just make sure you’re being an extra-attentive listener.
With patience and practice, excellent communication can be shared between the two of you.
4. Everyone with Down syndrome has a different personality.
All of my friends with Down syndrome have unique personalities. Some are gentle, shy and kind. Others are outgoing, loud and fun.
Just like you and me, people with Down syndrome are their own individuals. Getting to know them is both a process and a gift.
No one is exactly alike, and this goes for people with disabilities, too.
5. People with Down syndrome have careers.
People with Down syndrome lead extremely successful and flourishing careers in many different fields, including retail, the performing arts, fashion, design, technical work, administration and hospitality.
Have you ever heard of Jamie Brewer from "American Horror Story?" She is one of the most successful TV actresses of the moment, and she is also the first woman with Down syndrome to appear on the NYFW runway.
6. Having a child born with Down syndrome is a gift, not a tragedy.
Having a child, friend or relative with Down syndrome is a joyful thing.
Those with Down syndrome bring their own kind of love, affection and gifts to the table. It's a blessing to have a person with Down syndrome in your life.
This will not only help them grow, but it will help you grow, too.
7. People with Down syndrome do not want to be babied.
People with Down syndrome don't want you to baby them.
They may need a little more time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do the same things you can. Just be patient with them, and allow them to do it on their own. That’s what they want.
If they need your help, they’ll ask for it.
8. People with Down syndrome can live alone.
People with Down syndrome are capable of living on their own. Some choose to live by themselves, while others like to keep their family close and stay at home.
Their living situations are personal choices. It’s never fair to jump to conclusions about their lives and futures.
You can’t assume a child with Down syndrome will forever need to be assisted by his or her parents or caretakers. In so many cases, this just isn’t true.
9. Down syndrome does not define a person.
It’s just something a person is born with. It’s just one part of who a person is. It does not define a person’s character, personality or future.
So, remember to see people for who they are, not the disabilities they may have.
Just like you shouldn’t judge a person for his or her race or sexuality, you also shouldn’t define a person by his or her disability.
10. All we ask is you slow down.
People with Down syndrome are extremely capable human beings. Sometimes, they just need a little more time.
What’s wrong with that?
Wonderful relationships and friendships can come from just taking the few extra seconds to understand a person with Down syndrome. Trust me; the reward is worth the wait.