Each year, on March 21, we recognize individuals with Down syndrome. This date was chosen to symbolize the triplication of the 21st chromosome, responsible for the intellectual disability. According to March of Dimes, roughly 1 in 700 babies is born with Down syndrome in the U.S. As we come to better understand the disability and affected individuals, it's important to also celebrate and support this community. Whether that means donating to an associated non-profit or volunteering even just familiarizing yourself with the disability, each step we take towards a better understanding means a more inclusive environment for everyone.
Why celebrate World Down Syndrome Day?
This year's theme is With Us, Not For Us, challenging the belief that people with Down syndrome are subjects of charity, not equals in everyday life. While this community is in need of greater accessibility and support, this does not mean that these individuals want pity and depend on others for the majority of their needs. Though people may intend well, this line of thinking is outdated and offensive and actually inhibits the fight for a more accessible and inclusive world.
The World Down Syndrome Day Organization maintains that the human-rights-based approach to this issue is to view individuals with disabilities as "having the right to be treated fairly and have the same opportunities as everyone else, working with others to improve their lives."
Join the 'Lots of Socks' Movement
Instead of walking a mile in someone else's shoes, try walking in some crazy socks instead. The "Lots of Socks" campaign encourages people with Down syndrome and supporters to wear their craziest pair of socks during World Down Syndrome Day.
The message behind these wacky socks is pretty simple – start the conversation! When someone asks why you chose your zaniest ankle accessories, let them know what you're celebrating and how they can support the cause. You can even take your supportive outfit one step further by wearing blue and yellow, the official colors of the Down syndrome ribbon!
Additionally, if you'd like to involve friends, family, and colleagues, you can join the official "Lots of Socks" movement and gain access to coloring sheets, activities, posters, and more that will help raise awareness and encourage meaningful conversations.
Participate in the '21 Acts of Kindness'
Another popular way to commemorate the three 21st chromosomes is to share a bit of kindness in your own community. Whether interacting with individuals with disabilities or otherwise, spreading a bit of cheer to your neighbors and fellow advocates is a perfect way to promote togetherness and empathy. That's why many individuals with Down syndrome and supporters pledge to complete 21 acts of kindness on or before World Down Syndrome Day.
This may seem like a large feat – but don't worry, these acts of kindness don't need to be headline-worthy. Sure, you can sign up for a 5k run or organize a fundraiser, but you can also bake a batch of cookies and bring it to a local shelter or help a neighbor bring in their groceries. The bottom line is to create a more understanding and connected community, regardless of a person's background.
Need some inspiration for your 21 Acts of Kindness? Check out this list of ideas.
Collect clothes to donate
Organize a charity garage sale
Pick up a bag of litter
Make a poster for World Down Syndrome Day
Take a photo with someone else wearing crazy socks
Leave a friendly note in a neighbor's mailbox
Make a meal for your local fire station
Thank a public servant or member of the military
Leave a basket of tennis balls at a dog park
Compliment a stranger
Hold the door for the person behind you
Ask someone about their day
Pay for the person in line behind you at a coffee shop
Make or bring a meal to someone in need
Tip a little extra or put some change in a tip jar
Donate school supplies to local teachers
Plant a native flower or tree in your yard
Share an inspirational quote about community
Wash a neighbor's car
Offer your seat to someone in need
Leave money in a parking meter
Post about World Down Syndrome Day on social media
Support Down Syndrome Organizations
For those that want to go the extra mile in their crazy socks, there are quite a few global, national, and local organizations that are looking for volunteers, advocates, donors, and members. Whether you're looking to get involved with community members, themselves, or perhaps have a hand in the legislative side, you can always find a way to become more involved and supportive of individuals with Down syndrome.
Take a look at just some of the foundations and efforts across the globe.
National and global organizations to support this World Down Syndrome Day
How Does LeadAbility Celebrate World Down Syndrome Day?
At LeadAbility, we are truly grateful to have Self-Advocate Educators (SAEs) on our team that are a part of the Down syndrome community. Along with our other SAEs, Christopher Schoenbrodt and Bailey Mewhinney lead role-play scenarios during our trainings with professionals that demonstrate common problem areas when communicating with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As individuals with Down syndrome, themselves, March 21 is a celebration of who they are.
Naturally, Chris and Bailey have their own special ways of spending World Down Syndrome Day:
"I plan on celebrating World Down Syndrome Day by wearing crazy socks and my shirt backward to my fitness class and drama class so that people can ask me about Down syndrome."
"I will be celebrating World Down Syndrome Day by spending the day at my job working in a coffee shop. I hope to talk with customers about the importance of learning about others with differences and respecting their right to be heard. I want everyone to know that everyone is different from each other and that all voices need to be heard. "
Bailey will also be featured in the Special Olympics' YouTube special, "Voices of Champions." Listen to past years' interviews with LeadAbility SAEs Elaina Camacho and Adam Hayes.