A New Down Syndrome Awareness Campaign is Making Headlines

Blog: Down Syndrome Awareness Campaign #2

A new international awareness campaign called “Assume That I Can” challenges stereotypes about people with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is a condition in which a child is born with an additional chromosome. This difference leads to differences in physical and brain development which can create a variety of challenges including lower IQ, distinctive physical characteristics and certain medical problems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that “Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition diagnosed in the United States.”

Approximately 6,000 babies (one in 700) with Down syndrome are born in the U.S. every year.

Prior to the 1980s, many people with Down syndrome were institutionalized after birth. According to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, “most professionals considered it impossible for people with Down syndrome to learn how to speak properly, let alone read and write. It was assumed that people with Down syndrome would not walk properly, let alone participate in sports. They most likely could not dress, feed or take care of themselves, and were determined a burden to a marriage, siblings and a family. They were not allowed to attend public schools and most Americans believed they should not be allowed in public spaces such as movie theaters, malls or parks.”

Fortunately, in recent decades, beliefs about people with Down syndrome have changed dramatically. Nowadays, most children living with the condition are raised at home with their families and attend public schools where they learn to read and write. People with Down syndrome can be seen on TV, in films, on fashion runways and in the labor force. They are disability advocates, artists, musicians and athletes.

Launched on March 14, a week before World Down Syndrome Day, the “Assume That I Can” campaign video features Canadian actor, model, advocate and author Mia Armstrong. In the video, Armstrong, who lives with Down syndrome, advises parents, teachers, coaches, employers and even bartenders to “assume that I can” learn Shakespeare, play sports, live independently, get a job, have a romantic relationship, and drink a margarita.

The awareness campaign, which also includes success stories of individuals with Down syndrome posted to the organizations’ social media sites, is a joint effort between Italy’s CoorDown, National Down Syndrome Society in the U.S., the Canadian Down Syndrome Society and other organizations around the globe. It “was inspired by the 2019 speech given by Italian Down syndrome advocate Marta Sodano at the United Nations,” says CBS News. “She noted that when teachers assume a student cannot understand, they will not teach, and the student doesn’t learn. …” The scenario, said Sodano, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So far, the video seems to be changing some viewers’ perspectives. As Kandi Pickard, the president, and CEO of NDSS, told TODAY.com, “This video is opening up these conversations in such a healthy way for public to see not only the beauty but the ability of people with Down syndrome.”

Mattel Introduces a Barbie With Down Syndrome

Blog: Mattel Introduces a Barbie With Down Syndrome

For the first time ever, children with Down syndrome will be able to play with a Barbie doll that looks like them.

The doll, part of the brand’s inclusive Fashionista line, was designed in collaboration with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS).  Barbie (a brand of Mattel Inc.) also consulted with individuals with Down syndrome, their families and a medical doctor to ensure that the doll represented the disorder accurately. The new doll has the shorter frame and longer torso that’s characteristic of people with Down syndrome as well as a round face, small ears, almond-shaped eyes and a nose with a flat bridge. The dolls also have palms with a single line, which is often seen on people with the chromosomal disorder.

“It was an honor working with Barbie on the Barbie doll with Down syndrome,” said Kandi Pickard, NDSS President and CEO in a recent press release. “This means so much for our community, who for the first time, can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them. This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation. It is a huge step forward for inclusion and a moment that we are celebrating.”

The new Fashionista Barbie comes outfitted with a blue and yellow dress with butterflies, colors and symbols representative of Down syndrome awareness. The doll wears a pink necklace with “three upward chevrons that represent the three copies of the 21st chromosome, which is the genetic material that causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome,” says Pickard.

To make Barbie with Down syndrome even more realistic, she wears ankle foot orthotics, just as many children with the disorder do.

Barbie’s Fashionista line is part of the company’s effort to be more inclusive. The line includes more than 175 dolls with diverse skin, hair and eye colors, body types, disabilities and fashion styles. Last May, Barbie announced that it would be adding more dolls with disabilities to its Fashionista line. Currently, Barbie sells dolls that use wheelchairs, dolls that wear hearing aids, dolls with alopecia, dolls with prosthetic limbs and dolls with vitiligo.

“Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie, while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves,” said Lisa McKnight, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls. “Doll play outside of a child’s own lived experience can teach understanding and build a greater sense of empathy, leading to a more accepting world. We are proud to introduce a Barbie doll with Down syndrome to better reflect the world around us and further our commitment to celebrating inclusion through play.”

The new Barbie with Down syndrome will be available for purchase this summer and fall for $10.99.

7 Ways to Celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month 2022

Little Girl Painting with Watercolor

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. It’s the perfect time to learn more about the condition; celebrate the individuals who live with it; and discover how medical innovations have enhanced quality of life for the approximately 6,000 babies (one in 700) born with Down syndrome each year.

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition. Named for Dr. John Langdon Down, who identified the disorder in 1862, it is most likely to occur in babies conceived by older mothers. According to National Today, Down syndrome “is associated with delays in physical growth, characteristic facial features and intellectual disability.”

As recently as the 1950s and early 1960s, the birth of a child with Down syndrome was viewed as a tragedy and doctors discouraged the parents of children with Down syndrome to raise them at home.

Instead, says the National Association for Down Syndrome, they were “’warehoused’ in large state institutions – often in deplorable conditions – locked away so that the rest of society could not see the horror of their lives.” Parents who defied medical advice and chose to raise their children with Down syndrome at home, received little to no support or services.

Browse Our Products

The climate began to change when Kay and Marty McGee, whose daughter Tricia was born with Down syndrome, formed the National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS) – “an organization that would always recognize the great value of individuals with Down syndrome and of parents helping parents” in 1960.

Today, we know that children with Down syndrome can be happy and productive members of society who bring great joy to their families and friends.

Here are some ways that you can celebrate Down Syndrome Month.

1. Participate in a Buddy Walk
Raise awareness about Down syndrome by taking part in a Buddy Walk this month. With over 250 walks taking place across the United States and beyond, there is probably one near you.
2. Commit to kindness
The Down Syndrome Information Alliance suggests commemorating Down Syndrome Awareness Month by performing 31 acts of kindness – one act for every day of the month of October.
3. Educate others
Teachers and parents can teach children about their peers with Down syndrome by sharing books that encourage the inclusion of people with the condition. Gigi’s Playhouse Inc., which provides free educational and therapeutic services for individuals with Down syndrome and their families, recommends “My Friend Isabelle” by Eliza Woloson and “What’s Inside You Is Inside Me Too: My Chromosomes Make Me Unique” by Deslie Webb Quinby and Jeannie Visootsak.
4. Support Special Olympics
Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics for individuals with intellectual disabilities like her sister Rosemary. Shriver, an athlete, recognized that participation in sports was a wonderful way to bring people together and believed that “given the same opportunities and experiences as everyone else, [people with intellectual disabilities] could accomplish far more than anyone ever thought possible.”
5. Post about Down Syndrome Awareness Month
Use #DownSyndromeAwarenessMonth on social media to share information about the disorder and to highlight the contributions of people with Down syndrome to our society.
6. Pledge to spread inclusion
Visit the website SpreadInclusion.com to pledge your support for creating a more inclusive society.
7. Volunteer
Lend your time and talent to an organization that supports Down syndrome education or provides services for individuals with Down syndrome and their families. Some options include: Gigi’s Playhouse, Down Syndrome Resource Foundation, National Down Syndrome Society and National Down Syndrome Congress. Or find an organization in your area by clicking here.

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time to spread awareness not only about what Down syndrome is, but about the wonderful things people with the condition are doing in the world. We have tradition of showcasing people with Down syndrome and their significant accomplishments and contributions during October. Here are just a few of the amazing individuals and what they have achieved!

Zach Gottsagan
Zach Gottsagan, award-winning actor presents at the Oscars

The American actor shot to stardom with his award-winning performance in the film, “The Peanut Butter Falcon.” He was nominated for six acting awards and won two for his role as Zak, a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from the nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. On February 9, 2020, Zach became the first person with Down syndrome to present at the Academy Awards. He and his “Falcon” co-star, Shia LaBeouf, presented the award for live-action short film.

Chelsea Werner
Chelsea Werner, champion athlete and magazine cover girl

Chelsea Werner is a four-time United States Special Olympics Gymnastics Champion and two-time World Champion in Gymnastics. This despite her parents being told she would always have low muscle tone, according to her website https://chelseaworldchampion.com/. After being featured on the “Today” show in 2014, clothing company H&M hired her a commercial and her modeling career began. Since then, she’s been featured on two magazine covers and campaigns for major brands, including Tommy Hilfiger and Aerie.

Tommy Jessop
Tommy Jessop, successful British actor stars in prime-time BBC drama

Tommy Jessop has been a working actor since 2007. In addition to multiple awards and nominations for his performances, he is the first actor with Down syndrome to star in a prime-time BBC drama. He is also the first professional actor with Down syndrome to play Hamlet. The BBC Three documentary “Growing Up Down’s” followed the Blue Apple Theatre company’s touring production of the Shakespeare play starring Jessop. In July 2021, Jessop was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Winchester for his outstanding achievements in the entertainment industry.

Chris Nikic
Chris Nikic, athlete and Ironman triathlete

At 21, Chris Nikic became part of an elite group—an Ironman triathlete finisher. In November 2020, Nikic finished a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run at the Ironman Florida competition in Panama City Beach in 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds, becoming the first person with Down syndrome to complete the grueling competition. More importantly, perhaps, the Special Olympics athlete is inspiring others to do what he did to prepare for the Ironman—become 1% better every day. Learn more at https://chrisnikic.com/about/#betterchallenge.

Collette Divitto
Collette Divitto, baker and entrepreneur

After continually being turned down for jobs, Collette Divitto took matters into her own hands. Armed with her “Amazing Cookie” recipe and a whole lot of determination, Devitto founded Collettey’s Cookies in Boston. In late 2016, she was featured on a local news station and business started booming. Then national news outlets picked up her story, and Collette and her cinnamon chocolate chip cookies went viral. Today she employs 15 people, many with disabilities, and has sold more than 400,000 cookies!

A Salute to People with Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome Awareness

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. So, this week’s blogpost pays tribute to people with Down Syndrome who are accomplishing amazing things, as well as their families, teachers and therapists.

Here are some facts:

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, “Trisomy 21 (nondisjunction) Down syndrome is usually caused by an error in cell division called “nondisjunction.” Nondisjunction results in an embryo with three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two. Prior to or at conception, a pair of 21st chromosomes in either the sperm or the egg fails to separate.”

People with Down syndrome share certain physical characteristics including eyes that slant upwards, low muscle tone, a deep crease across their palms, and short stature. Though all people with Down syndrome experience some degree of cognitive delays, it is now understood, that they are capable of learning, have diverse interests, talents and strengths just like their typically developing peers.

Down syndrome also puts people with Down syndrome at higher risk “for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions,” says NDSS. Yet, medical advances have made most of these conditions treatable and have increased longevity dramatically. In 1983, most adults with Down syndrome could only expect to live to age 25, but today, most adults with Down syndrome live to at least 60 years of age.

Life expectancy isn’t the only thing that has changed over the last few decades. In recent years, people with Down syndrome have found success in school, at work and in relationships. They are becoming increasingly visible and accepted in most areas of our society.

Well known for his role as Corky Thatcher on ABC’s “Life Goes On,” Chris Burke is also NDSS Goodwill Ambassador. Burke works and blogs for the organization regularly. Lauren Potter made a name for herself on the hit show “Glee” playing cheerleader Becky Johnson. And more recently, Jamie Brewer played a clairvoyant on the hit show “American Horror Story.”

Madeline Stuart made her runway modeling debut in 2015 and followed that up with the launch of her own fashion label at this year’s NY Fashion Week!

People with Down syndrome are also making their marks in the world of visual art. Check out these online galleries on the website of the National Association for Down Syndrome.org to see how people with Down syndrome are expressing their creativity.

But one doesn’t have to be a celebrity or artist to be a successful person with Down syndrome. According to Babble,  people with Down syndrome have made headlines recently for their academic and political accomplishments as well. For instance, Megan McCormick graduated with honors and at the top of her class from Bluegrass Community Technical College in Kentucky, becoming the first person in the U.S. with Down syndrome to do so. And in 2013, Angela Bachiller became the first councilwoman with Down syndrome.

The outlook for people with Down syndrome is brighter than ever but greater awareness about their talents, abilities, and of what they have to offer our society is still needed. According to Read and Spell.com, “In the United States a recent national survey showed that 56% of people with Down syndrome who are working are in paid positions. They may be in different kinds of work including supported employment positions in which a job coach eases the transition to a working environment, sheltered employment in which most of the other workers also have Down syndrome or competitive employment where they are the only individual with a learning difficulty in their place of work. An additional 3% are self-employed.”

For more information about Down syndrome and Down syndrome Awareness Month, visit nads.org and  ndss.org


Sky’s the Limit for People With Down Syndrome!

Photo of Eli Reimer

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time to celebrate people with Down Syndrome and their significant accomplishments and contributions. It’s also the perfect time to advocate for the acceptance, inclusion, and inherent value of people with the condition.

In recognition of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and the impressive abilities of people with the condition, Enabling Devices has put together this list of awe-inspiring people with Down Syndrome. Read on and be amazed!

Image of ZhouZhou
Yizhou Hu, orchestral conductor

The son of a professional cellist, Yizhou Hu (ZhouZhou),who was born with Down Syndrome, inherited his father’s musical talent. Despite the fact that he can’t read music, ZhouZhou, has become a successful orchestral conductor.

Image of Angela Bachiller
Angela Bachiller, councilwoman

Down syndrome hasn’t stopped this young woman from pursuing a career in Spanish politics. Bachiller was only 30 years old when she was appointed to a seat on city council of Valladolid in 2013.

Image of Luke Zimmerman
Luke Zimmerman, actor

Best known for his role on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Zimmerman, has also appeared on TV series, Glee and Getting On and played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet on the stage.

Image of Madeline Stuart
Madeline Stuart, professional model

According to the Mighty, Stuart is the first model with Down syndrome to have seven— ­­count em—modeling contracts. Like other models, Stuart’s modeling jobs help to sell clothes and make-up. But Stuart, who walked the runway at N.Y. Fashion Week last year, also uses her fame to fight discrimination against people with disabilities.

Image of Melissa Reilly
Melissa Reilly, special Olympian, Down syndrome advocate, college student and senatorial intern

Talk about busy! Where does Reilly find the time to be good at so many things? It’s hard to believe that Reilly’s parents once feared that she might not be able to learn, attend school or live a normal life. Today, they are among the 79 percent of parents and guardians of children with Down syndrome who told doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston that “their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with Down syndrome.”

Image of Tim Harris
Tim Harris, restaurateur

When he opened Tim’s Place in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2010, Harris was the first person with Down syndrome ever to own his own restaurant. Regulars were crest-fallen when they learned earlier this year, that Tim’s Place was closing. The reason? Harris had fallen in love with a young woman who lived in Denver. He was moving there to be closer to her. Harris says he will open a new restaurant there.

Photo of Eli Reimer
Eli Reimer, climber

In 2013, when she was just 15, Eli (Elisha) Reimer became the first person with Down syndrome to climb to the base of Mount Everest. Her father, who accompanied her on the trip, trained Eli.

Image of Michael Jurogue Johnson
Michael Jurogue Johnson, painter

Few visual artists achieve the success of this prolific and self-taught artist with Down syndrome. Johnson’s work has been compared to the work of Henri Rousseau and Edward Hicks. Since 2000, Johnson has been commissioned to paint over 500 portraits and according to Artprize, his work is owned by the likes of Hilary Clinton, Steven Spielberg, Liam Neeson and Mike Meyers.