October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and I’m so excited to celebrate with you!
Down syndrome awareness month is not about celebrating disability, rather it centers on highlighting one’s abilities and how we are more alike than different.
October provides us an opportunity to spread awareness while promoting acceptance and inclusivity. As with anything it is also an opportunity to raise funds for programming, research, education and advocacy. Overall, this month is about creating a positive influence regarding the Down syndrome community. One way people do this is one act of kindness each day during October!
Raising funds is especially important during these times of COVID as there is such a disconnect between individuals with Down syndrome and their daily resources and structures. This includes day programs and employment – my sister Emily has not been able to return to her program or her employment since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March. This is primarily due to her health complications and the risks associated with her as an individual during the pandemic. She has lost her structure and daily supports! The resources in our community are sparse and there is no program to support her during this time when she has been left without structure, support, programming or care. Emily does require daily care and this has been an added challenge – yet if you recall “Creative in Quarantine” we have made the most of this situation!
For me, this month I embrace love and laughter as this is what fills my days due to some individuals who are very important to me.
In addition to March 21 (3.21 day) – Down syndrome awareness month is a campaign that aims to develop a society that embraces each individual for all we bring to each day we have here on Earth, and how to gain meaning in whatever that may be. The goal is to empower one another (especially our friends with an extra chromosome) to pursue their goals, their careers, their education and love. Finally, it’s to advocate for change, to shift our society to a place of acceptance without bias and judgement, to learn understanding of each life and the meaning behind each life. As humans we each hold skill and talents – including our friends with extra chromosomes.
Some ways that I have celebrated Down syndrome awareness month is through a 31-day kindness challenge! I have taken each day to enact a random act of kindness for another human being, it is a way to spread joy without a goal of reciprocity, a way to understand the hearts of others and to uplift our community. I have also, with my mother and sister, gotten a tattoo in honor of my sistership with Emily. It is three forward facing arrows with the word “LOVE” written by Emily. The three arrows signify the third 21st chromosome and they are forward facing to represent rising up and moving forward. As with an arrow, life will at times stretch us back and yet we continue to propel forward, stronger than before. Emily’s handwriting was an essential piece as she is the driving force behind it all, the love we share larger than anything else.
So here now we have 31 days to focus on spreading knowledge, reducing stigma and increasing acceptance because we are more alike than different.