People with Down syndrome today have many more resources and opportunities than in previous generations when many individuals were not expected to live into adulthood. Today, many people live well into their 50s and 60s. Many live on their own, go to college, and hold down full-time jobs, underscoring the progress we’ve made.
However, there is still much to be done where inclusion is concerned. Inclusion, by definition, refers to “full and effective participation and inclusion in society.” Inclusion is a human right for all, though many adults with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities still do not benefit from it.
Down Syndrome Awareness Month, recognized in October, is a wonderful time to celebrate these remarkable individuals, and an opportunity for all of us to learn how we can better foster inclusion and generally make the world a better place for everyone.
What is Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects approximately one in every 700 babies born in the United States. Children with Down syndrome are born with an additional chromosome, which affects how the child’s brain and body develop.
Down syndrome often results in delayed growth and intellectual disabilities, although the degree to which each individual is affected varies significantly. Other common health concerns include heart defects, hearing loss, chronic ear infections, eye diseases, and obstructive sleep apnea.
As for risk factors, the mother’s age is a known contributor, particularly moms over 35—but there is still a lot we don’t know, including how to prevent Down syndrome.
The Lived Experience
We’ve come a long way since Down syndrome was first classified. At that time, children born with Down syndrome did not often make it to adulthood. Many were placed in hospitals and sanatoriums and not provided adequate support and stimulation to help them thrive.
Today, we know that people with Down syndrome are fully capable of leading productive and fulfilling lives into adulthood. We better understand what contributes to positive outcomes. Education, a supportive, loving, and stable home life, and physical and mental stimulation can each play an active role in improving the lives of individuals with Down syndrome.
Adults with Down syndrome hope, dream, and desire a future for themselves, just like anybody else. Proper assessments help to ensure each person has the supports and opportunities appropriate to their level of independence. When those supports are provided, it enables individuals to thrive based on their functional abilities.
Though many people with Down syndrome live with their families, others live in a group home setting or supportive congregate environment like the ones that Independent Living Association (ILA) provides. ILA also provides pre-vocational training and community habilitation, helping individuals discover their passions, embrace the joys of friendship, and participate in inclusive activities of all kinds.
Contact us today to learn more about how you can support ILA’s mission.