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Saint Lucia joins the World in observing World Down Syndrome Day

March 17, 2023

World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated annually on 21st March to raise awareness and promote understanding of Down syndrome. The date was chosen because Down syndrome is caused by the presence of a third copy of the 21st chromosome, and the date 3/21 represents this genetic condition.

To commemorate the day, The Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education, Sustainable Development, Innovation, Science, Technology and Vocational Training invites the public to join the ‘Rock your Socks’ Campaign on Tuesday, March 21st, 2023. Everyone is encouraged to wear socks that do not match on that day. The intention is to get people talking about Down syndrome in an effort to create awareness. The public are also encouraged to post your pictures on your social media pages with the hashtags #RockYourSocks, #SpecialEducationSLU and #WithUsNotForUs.

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21. Typically, human cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, but individuals with Down syndrome have a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21, which results in a total of 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46.

This extra genetic material affects physical and cognitive development, and leads to a range of physical and intellectual disabilities. Some common physical characteristics of Down syndrome include slanted eyes, a small head and ears, a flat facial profile, poor muscle tone, and a single crease in the palm of the hand. Individuals with Down syndrome may also experience developmental delays, learning disabilities, and health problems such as heart defects, respiratory issues, and hearing and vision problems. Although there is no cure for Down syndrome, early intervention programs and therapies can help individuals with Down syndrome reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.

This year, for World Down Syndrome Day the theme is ‘With us not for us.’ This theme emphasizes the importance of involving individuals with this developmental disability in the design and implementation of programs and policies that affect their lives. The principle recognizes that people with disabilities have a unique perspective on their own needs and experiences and their participation and leadership are critical for achieving meaningful and lasting change.

The ‘With us not for us’ principle is particularly important in the context of disability advocacy and policy-making, where people with disabilities have historically been excluded from decision-making processes. By involving people with disabilities in all aspects of program and policy development, implementation, and evaluation, we can ensure that their voices and perspectives are heard and that their rights and needs are fully respected and addressed.

Overall, the ‘With us not for us’ principle is a call to action for disability advocates, policymakers, and society as a whole to recognize and value the expertise, experience, and contributions of people with disabilities and to work collaboratively with them towards a more inclusive and equitable world. So join in and represent for these special people among us!

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