October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and we want to take the time to recognize its importance. Down Syndrome is a genetic condition that causes developmental delays, intellectual disability, and physical abnormalities. In the United States alone, around 6,000 babies are born every year with this genetic condition (CDC). Today we want to share why it’s important to live beyond stigma in October during Down Syndrome Awareness Month and why this month has a special place in our hearts.
Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. This results in having 47 chromosomes instead of the typical 46. Because of this extra chromosome, people with Down Syndrome have a unique set of characteristics, which may include mild to moderate intellectual and physical disabilities. It affects people differently and to different degrees.
Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition, occurring at a rate of 1 in every 700 births in the United States (CDC). Most people with Down syndrome live 40-60 years and can enjoy a good quality of life as they age.
It is characterized by a range of symptoms that can vary widely from person to person. Some common characteristics include low muscle tone, small stature, and an upward slant to the eyes. It is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured or prevented.
We want to share with you why it’s important to raise awareness of Down syndrome and the people who have it, as well as promote acceptance and inclusion of individuals. This month has been recognized since the 1980s to bring awareness and celebrate those living with Down syndrome. It is important to recognize those living with DS are no different from others. Many go on to college, drive, work, play sports, and some get married. Most individuals go on to live happy, fulfilling, and productive lives! If you have ever had the honor to know and cherish a friendship with an individual living with Down syndrome, you know the unconditional love, joy, and happiness they bring to life.
Many of you likely know that Laurie Vanderpool, co-founder of LiveBeyond, had a brother, Johnny Stallings, who lived with Down syndrome. Johnny was a light in many people’s lives and touched the hearts of thousands! There are many buildings named in his memory, and here at LiveBeyond, Johnny was the inspiration for creating the Johnny’s Kids program.
Johnny’s Kids exists to serve children with disabilities in underserved communities. Caring for children with disabilities including, but not limited to, Down syndrome, was one of our first community outreach efforts in Haiti. Now, this program serves many children with disabilities and their families in the rural area of Thomazeau. We also have our Johnny’s Kids Israel program. Serving children and families affected by disabilities in this part of the world is such a powerful way to care for a very underserved and overlooked population.
It is an honor to carry on Johnny’s legacy through the Johnny’s Kids program! We take to heart bringing awareness to all who live with Down syndrome and the importance of living beyond the stigma.
How can you get involved? If you would like to make a difference in the lives of many who live with disabilities in underserved populations, you can donate to the LiveBeyond Johnny’s Kids program. By doing so, you allow LiveBeyond to continue providing quality education, healthcare, and nutrition to these individuals. We are so grateful for our family of generous supporters and partners who make it possible for us to expand our reach to underserved communities.
Are you a parent of someone with Down syndrome or are working with children and adults who have this condition? You can take action by supporting individuals with disabilities. This can be done by donating to our programs, getting involved with advocacy groups in your community, or just talking about Down Syndrome more openly. We’re here to help make sure people understand how important it is that everyone has access to high-quality healthcare services so they can live their best lives possible.
Hear the latest news from Haiti, read posts about faith and community development, and find transcriptions from the LiveBeyond podcast.