Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas Executive Director Jennifer A. Edwards wrote the following op-ed to local media regarding the importance of community-wide recognition of World Down Syndrome Day and Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s proclamation of 3/21/2019 as “Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas Day.”
LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND ON 3/21 – World Down Syndrome Day
By Jennifer A. Edwards, Executive Director
Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas
March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), a global awareness day officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. The UN acknowledges, “All people with Down syndrome must have opportunities to live fulfilling lives, included on a full and equal basis with others, in all aspects of society,” and envisions a future in which “no one will be left behind.”
This year, the City of Austin has declared March 21 as Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas Day.
Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21, occurs when a person is born with three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two. Hence, 3/21 is “our” day.
In the United States, nearly one in 700 babies is born with Down syndrome. Most function in the mild to moderate range of cognitive impairment, with common physical traits including small stature, low muscle tone, and an upward slant to the eyes.
Though they’re at increased risk for congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions, most people with Down syndrome live healthy lives. The average lifespan of a person with Down syndrome has increased to 60 years, compared to just 25 years in 1983.
Yet many misconceptions surrounding Down syndrome still exist. It is a genetic condition, not a disease. People do not “suffer from it” nor are they “victims.” It has nothing to do with race, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion, or anything the mother or father did during pregnancy.
Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas (DSACT) wants to fully dispel the myths about Down syndrome. Established in 1991, DSACT is the only organization in Austin and its surrounding counties providing programs and services for individuals with Down syndrome, their families, educators and the medical community. By providing new parent support, educational outreach, and medical outreach, as well as investment in scientific research, DSACT seeks to bring Austinites a greater understanding of what Down syndrome is and isn’t.
We also honor educators, like Lindsay Davis of Barton Creek Elementary School in Eanes ISD and Dana Barton, Randi Reyes, Krissy Anderson, and Janet Mormon of Frost Elementary School in Georgetown ISD, whose dedication to students with Down syndrome inspires us.
DSACT envisions a world in which all members, including those with Down syndrome, are accepted, valued for their uniqueness, respected for their abilities and contributions, and assured the opportunity and choice to create their own path to fulfillment and success. And while we want to leave no one behind, we’re concerned that there are people in our community with Down syndrome who need help and aren’t getting it.
Surprisingly, the population of people in the U.S. with Down syndrome is currently unknown. However, one third of Americans know someone with Down syndrome. If you know someone with Down syndrome, please encourage them or their family to contact DSACT. We’d love to welcome them into our community and offer our support and resources.
On this World Down Syndrome Day, let us commit to welcoming people with Down syndrome into every area of our community. DSACT, in partnership with Down syndrome communities from across Texas, will gather at the State Capitol as both the House and Senate recognize the significance of WDSD. Here at home in Central Texas, help us in our DSACT mission to embrace and support every person with Down syndrome. Let us all fulfill the United Nations pledge to “leave no one behind.”