March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day, a day to celebrate and spread global awareness.
In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Day, we would like to share with you how we at NAPA see our friends with Down syndrome. Up until as recently as the 1980s, it was unfortunately the norm to institutionalize individuals with Down syndrome. Thankfully, times and perspectives are changing. Today, people are now identifying the uniqueness and potential of people with Down syndrome that we have known all along. Popping up globally in ads, some of these special individuals have begun to model for big companies. It’s apparent we are growing as a society in understanding that different is beautiful. But really, we think that different is the most beautiful.
Modeling is absolutely not the only thing our people with Down syndrome can do! It’s important to recognize, many children go on to live both happy and fulfilling lives. Adults with Down syndrome are now reaching old age on a more regular basis and are commonly living into their 50s, 60s and 70s. With the right support, they can build rich lives and play an important role in their communities. Many adults live nearly on their own, have jobs, and relationships. Of course, those with Down Syndrome have a range of needs, abilities, and desires, just like any other group of people. While some will learn to drive, others will work on building relationships. Some can live on their own, while others will need more assistance. They are quite capable of working a part-time job and participating in meaningful social activities.
As international discussion over prenatal testing for Down syndrome grew, researchers noted one perspective was noticeably absent from the research literature—the voices of people with Down syndrome themselves! In a 2011 study, 296 people with DS shared about their lives and, for the first time, revealed their advice for expectant couples. Their views and responses were collectively and systematically analyzed. The overwhelming majority of people with Down Syndrome surveyed indicated they live happy and fulfilling lives. When asked, “if a new mom and dad just had a baby with Down syndrome, what would you like to tell them?”, many people with DS wanted to express that their own lives are good, saying “It’s not so bad having Down syndrome” and “If everyone was as happy as me, that would be great.” One individual with Down syndrome shared, “I am very happy in my life. I have friends who care about and love me.” Several others wanted to say, “It’s okay to have special needs.” The general sentiment towards the new parents was that they need not worry:
Patience was of particular importance to the interview participants with Down syndrome, who stated, “The baby has to work hard. Help the baby reach their goals.” and “Be patient because I found out that it is harder for me to learn.” Many participants also highlighted similarities between people with DS to those without DS, saying “The baby is just like you and me, just a little different.” and “That baby is not different from a regular person just because they have a disability.” We love what these individuals had to say about love: “Love them, and they will love you lots.”
Instagram is a great way to connect with some of our favorite friends with Down syndrome. Here are some of our favorite accounts to follow:
Cait Parr is a pediatric physical therapist at NAPA Center. Her favorite animal is snails, because they remind her to slow down and enjoy the beautiful details about life.