Celebrating World Down Syndrome Awareness Day

World Down Syndrome Awareness Day fights to reduce the stigma that disabilities can have and to teach kids to understand and appreciate differences.

By: Laura Lebovitz | LAMFT at Grow Counseling

I have the best little sister in the world. I’m not bragging though … this is just a fact! She’s kind, caring, a great dancer, a huge fan of slapstick humor, and a devoted employee at the Johns Creek Police department. She also happens to have Down syndrome and a bonus 21st chromosome. I celebrate and love on my sister all of the time. World Down Syndrome Awareness Day, March 21st, is an extra excuse to celebrate her and bring awareness to everyone who has Down syndrome.

Here are some easy practical ways you can join the advocacy movement and support people with Down syndrome:

Use People First Language.
When referring to people with disabilities by their disabilities, you are indicating that their disability is their total identity. How limiting is that! I would hate to have my identity narrowed down to one aspect of who I am. Instead of saying the Down syndrome boy or Downs kid, try describing them as the person with Down syndrome. One small change like this can make someone feel so much more included!

End the use of the r-word.
The word retarded is incredibly hurtful for people with disabilities and their families. It is an outdated medical term to describe people with disabilities that has unfortunately been turned into an insult. Eliminating the r-word can help to create more accepting attitudes and inclusion for all people with disabilities. Take the pledge with your family to end the r-word at www.r-word.org!

Join the community.
Connect with the larger community! Inspire those around you to make changes to make the world a more inclusive place for people with disabilities. Get involved in the community with organizations like the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta or the Buddy Walk.

Don’t let fear keep you from connecting.
People with disabilities have more in common with you and I than they have differences. We all have big dreams, a desire to connect with others, and feelings. Don’t let fear or uncertainty keep you from connecting with a person with a disability. Ask questions respectfully, be open, and make adjustments as you need to. Take the time to explain differences or things they might find strange to your kids. If you are uncertain about where to begin, find a book about a disability and read it with your kids to learn together.

Awareness is important to help reduce the stigma that disabilities can have and to teach kids to understand and appreciate differences. Most importantly, help your kids understand that you should be a friend to everyone! Talk about ways to include everyone at recess, say hi to everyone at school, or even plan a playdate. Your kids may even be able to make a new friend! For more ideas on how to celebrate, check out WorldDownSyndromeDay.org.

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