In August, 32-year-old Andrew Harris became the first person with Down syndrome to climb the Grand Teton. Joined by his sister and her fiance, Andrew hiked and climbed for 12 hours to reach the summit, working as a team to overcome every obstacle in their path. His positivity and perseverance in the feat inspired his community and then the nation as the news spread.
It's stories like this that must be told to promote a greater understanding of Down syndrome. In fact, that's what Down Syndrome Awareness Month is partially about – educating the public on the accomplishments of this community.
In America, approximately 6,000 babies are born each year with Down syndrome, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This equates to one in about every 700 births, making it the most common chromosomal disorder.
October is a chance for the nation to officially recognize the accomplishments and challenges of this community through Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Though understanding about Down syndrome and appreciation for those with the disorder continues to grow across the U.S., there are still many misconceptions that can be eradicated by spreading awareness.
What is Down Syndrome Awareness Month?
Down Syndrome Awareness Month is filled with events that serve to promote Down syndrome in the public light, with some also raising money for organizations that work in researching the disorder or supporting the people and families affected by it.
More importantly, it is a celebration of the abilities and accomplishments of the Down syndrome community. People with Down syndrome graduate from college, pursue successful careers, get married and master sports and hobbies, bringing joy to their families, friends and communities.
Thank you @ClimbingMag for featuring Andrew "Bob/Ducky" Harris's climb of the Grand Teton! @GrandTetonNPS #TeamNDSS https://t.co/xP8rN1ANQX
— NDSS (@NDSS) August 23, 2017
Down Syndrome Awareness month is a time to hear from friends, loved ones and, of course, individuals with Down syndrome themselves.
"It's not about celebrating disabilities, it's about celebrating abilities," wrote the National Down Syndrome Society. "We can learn all about our history. We have a right to speak out about what it's like to have Down syndrome and to learn the real story of people like us."
Celebrations for Down Syndrome Awareness Month
Organizations and communities across the nation are celebrating this month in a variety of ways, from walks to social media campaigns.
If you want to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month in your own community, consider organizing a walk of your own to help your neighbors get active and learn more about Down syndrome, all while raising money for a good cause, like the National Down Syndrome Society or a Down syndrome association in your area. Or contact your government representatives to encourage them to support funding for Down syndrome research. The NDSS is currently urging the National Institutes of Health to increase its commitment to and focus on this area of research, particularly calling for a longitudinal study looking at the effects of behavioral and pharmaceutical intervention.
If you're on social media, post using the hashtag #DownSyndromeAwarenessMonth to spread the message online. Consider sharing a personal story if you or someone you know has Down syndrome.
"Remember that this is a very important month," wrote the NDSS. "We have to spread awareness about Down syndrome and learn more about ourselves."