We were so excited that this year Benny gave his own presentation about Down syndrome to his class and after school care program for World Down Syndrome Day using his talker, also known as an Augmented Alternative Communication or AAC Device. This is no easy feat, he had to practice diligently for some time to get the pacing and order right, and he is so proud of himself! This was the first presentation he's ever given himself, and he did a great job.
Leading up to World Down Syndrome Day we invited Rio Vista Elementary School to help us celebrate by learning and sharing five fun facts about Down syndrome, and wearing crazy socks on March 21st.
Five fun facts about Down Syndrome!
1. People who have Down syndrome have something extra in their bodies that makes them special, an extra chromosome!
What is a chromosome?
It's what gives our cells the genetic information that makes us who we are, like what color our eyes are, or whether we are good at math.
Most people are born with 46 chromosomes, people with Down syndrome are born with 47!
This triple chromosome is located on the 21st strand, which is why we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day on the 21st day of the third month of the year.
Can you think of something special you were born with that makes you different?
2. People with Down syndrome may share some similar facial characteristics but each person with Down syndrome is unique.
Just like you might have the same eye color as someone else, but in other ways you are different, people with Down syndrome have similarities and differences from each other.
You share the same genetic information with your family members, but you also share unique traits that make you different.
Can you think of ways that you are the same as other people in your family, and ways that you are different?
3. A person has Down syndrome, but they are not Down syndrome.
With any diagnosis or difference it is polite to ask the person how they like their difference to be referred to. If you don't know what a person's preference is, it is best to say the person first, and then give their diagnosis or difference. This is called person first language, and it helps remind us to see the person first before we see their difference. Our son Benny has Down syndrome, he is a kid with Down syndrome, NOT a Down syndrome kid.
Think about who you are and what makes you different. Do you want people to say your name first, and then what makes you different, or is it okay for them to call you by your difference? There is no right answer, only what feels good to you.
4. Many people with Down syndrome have difficulty with speech, but that doesn't mean that they don't have a lot to say. It also doesn't mean that they don't understand what you are saying.
Our son Benny has trouble with articulation and uses sign language and a "talker" to help people understand what he is saying. His talker looks like a tablet, but has software on it that he uses to speak. Waiting to hear what Benny is trying to say often takes patience, kindness and creativity, all important characteristics for success.
Besides speech, we all have non-verbal ways that we communicate. What are some ways you can think of to communicate without speaking?
5. Including people with Down syndrome in the classroom benefits everyone in the class.
We all have different ways of learning, and different things that we are good at. Sharing a classroom with someone who learns differently, and who takes longer to learn, benefits everyone in the classroom.
Statistics show that typical students who share a classroom with a child with a disability are less likely to bully each other and are more likely to do better academically. There is even a statistic that shows that children who share a classroom with a child with a disability have higher IQ scores!
How do you learn differently from other people? What is a subject that is easy for you, and what is one that is more difficult?
Happy World Down Syndrome Day!
Since becoming a mom to a little boy with Trisomy 21 I have written a lot about Down syndrome and disabilities. I am a storyteller, wife and mom to a teen and a toddler. Life is busy!