3 Things To Know and Teach Your Kids During
Down Syndrome Acceptance Month
1 in every 700 hundred babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome. That being said, it’s pretty likely that you and your kids will encounter one of #TheLuckyFew at some point whether it be a classmate, teammate or new friend at the playground.
To celebrate Down syndrome Acceptance Month here are a few important things to teach your kids:
1. We are more alike than different
The only difference between a person with Down syndrome and a person without it is an extra chromosome. That’s it! While most people have 46 chromosomes, those with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21 resulting in 47 total. While they have some different abilities, individuals with Down syndrome can and will do anything their neuro-typical peers can. Celebrate differences while finding common ground. An activity that everyone can enjoy is a great way to bring everyone together. It can be as easy as musical chairs or carpool karaoke. Encourage asking questions but ensure the ultimate takeaway is that a person is a person no matter how many chromosomes. GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement center has a short video that does a fabulous job of illustrating this.
2. Words matter
It’s crucial to practice proper vocabulary as an example so that kids adopt the correct language. Language reflects the dignity of people. Demonstrate, explain and teach the following:
- The “R word” is NEVER acceptable. Never ever ever ever ever. End of story.
- A child has Down syndrome. They are not a Down syndrome child, a Downs kid or any other description that doesn’t utilize people first language. A person is a person first every time. You would never use the phrase “Asthma Child” or “Chicken Pox Child” and the same rule applies here.
- No one is suffering from or afflicted with Down syndrome nor is it a disease. It’s a chromosomal condition that should be celebrated. Grey’s Anatomy actor, Caterina Scorsone had a great instagram post highlighting this point as well.
3. Inclusion is important
Growing up, my mom’s best friend’s son, Joel, had Autism and was always just one of the kids palling around with my brother than I. No big deal was made, he just happened to be a little different than us and we watched Disney movies and played together all the same. I credit my easy immersion into the Down syndrome community to that lifelong relationship, that my mom introduced me to. Being exposed to diversity from an early age shows that there isn’t anything to to afraid of because the unknown is more familiar and really not THAT different. If you teach inclusion from the beginning, kids won’t know any different. Go out of the way to say hi to someone who looks different from you. Encourage play with someone who has different abilities. Small everyday acts of inclusion go a long way. Practice and teach acceptance of all people no matter who they are, what they look like or how many chromosomes they have.
Our guest blogger, Claire Kuhn is a volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse NYC, which is part of a nationwide network of 40 Down syndrome Achievement centers. She has dedicated over 250 hours contributing to the gala committee, marketing committee, fundraising and teen programming. She is also a mentor for LiveUp Programs, which provides memorable long weekend experiences for adults with Down syndrome.