I have the best little sister in the world. I’m not bragging though…this is just a fact! She’s kind, caring, a member of the Foster-Schmidt dance company, a huge fan of slapstick humor, and a devoted employee at the Johns Creek Police department. She also happens to have Down syndrome and a bonus 21st chromosome.
I celebrate and love on my sister all of the time. National Down Syndrome Awareness Month is an extra excuse to celebrate her and bring awareness to everyone who has Down syndrome.
Here are some easy practical ways you can join the advocacy movement and support people with Down syndrome!
- Use people first language. When referring to people with disabilities by their disabilities, you are indicating that their disability is their total identity. How limiting is that! I would hate to have my identity narrowed down to one aspect of who I am. Instead of saying the Down syndrome boy or Downs kid, try describing them as the person with Down syndrome.
- Eliminate the r-word! The word retarded is incredibly hurtful for people with disabilities and their families. It is an outdated medical term to describe people with disabilities that has unfortunately been turned into an insult. Eliminating the r-word can help to create more accepting attitudes and inclusion for all people with disabilities. Take the pledge to end the r-word at www.r-word.org!
- Don’t just make these changes yourself…connect with the larger community! Inspire those around you to make changes to make the world a more inclusive place for people with disabilities. Get involved in the community with organizations like the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta or the Buddy Walk. Take the r-word pledge and email the link to everyone you know. Press pause in conversations with others when they use hurtful terms and help them understand a better way to express what they are saying. All these little changes can add up!
- Keep calm….it’s only an extra chromosome. People with disabilities have more in common with you and I than they have differences. We all have big dreams, a desire to connect with others, and feelings. Don’t let fear or uncertainty keep you from connecting with a person with a disability. Ask questions respectfully, be open, and make adjustments as you need to. Be a friend to them just like you would to any other loved one in your life!
I’m so blessed to learn from my sister. Let’s celebrate National Down Syndrome Awareness month together! For more ideas on how to celebrate, check out https://worlddownsyndromeday.org/.
Laura Lebovitz, LAMFT