The 21st March of March is World Down Syndrome Day and it is a day when people with Down syndrome and those who live and work with them throughout the world are celebrated.
Activities and events are organized to raise public awareness and create a single global voice for advocating for the rights, inclusion and well being of people with Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is NOT a disease so it is not something you catch rather, it’s a chromosomal condition. Typically, humans have 46 chromosomes which make up who we are as people. The nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.
Unfortunately, this additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm.
It is important to note that each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.
The truth is that it is not easy raising up children generally much less raising a child with any form of disability. So, let's be sensitive to such parents and children and also educate our children on not making fun of any child with Down Syndrome or making them feel bad.
Below is the way a mum in the US, Krista Rowland-Collins gives an easy way of explaining Down Syndrome to a child.
Mommy and Daddy both give us chromosomes; we get 23 from Mom and 23 from Dad. These chromosomes decide how we develop and grow, how we act, if we will look like Mom or Dad.
Adele has 47 chromosomes. This one extra chromosome gives her some extra special gifts. Her eyes are almond shaped, her nose bridge is flatter, her ears are smaller and lower-set, her mouth is shaped differently, her tongue is a bit bigger, she has a smaller mouth and her palette is shaped differently, which affects her speech.
It might be harder to understand her, not because she doesn’t know how to talk, but because she lacks some muscle strength and the inside of her mouth is shaped differently. She will do all of the same things you do, but it’s going to take her a little longer.
Because of her extra chromosome, she’s a bit floppy like a rag doll, so crawling and standing are a little more difficult, but she’ll get there. She needs to work on getting stronger; we do this with the help of some great people. Adele does some special exercises that help with strength and speech.
When you go skiing or play hard or have a big, long game of hockey or soccer, sometimes your muscles feel a bit weak and you feel kind of floppy; this is how it is for Adele every day. She just needs some time.
She will love the same music as you and will like sports and gymnastics, just like you. She has feelings, just like you, and she will love playing with her friends and laughing at silly jokes.
Having the extra chromosome doesn’t make her any less of a person; she’s just like you. She just has to work a little bit harder at some things. Some school subjects might be a bit more difficult for her to catch on to, and some will be a little easier. Maybe math will be harder for her to understand because the numbers might be confusing, but she may write great stories in Language Arts class.
An Extra-special shout out goes to a lady called Tola Makinde of Mo-Rainbow Foundation here in Lagos who does a lot in helping children with Down Syndrome. She is on a rescue mission in supporting children with Down Syndrome and is an advocate for early intervention and giving hope to families who have children with this condition. You can read up more and support this movement via www.moyinrainbowfoundation.com