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World Down Syndrome Day

Denis Horan

Today is World Down Syndrome Day, an international day of awareness, promotion of rights, and celebration of the abilities and accomplishments of people with Down syndrome. While March 21, 2012 marks the seventh annual celebration, it’s also the first World Down Syndrome Day officially recognized by the United Nations. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message commemorating the day:

For too long, persons with Down syndrome, including children, have been left on the margins of society. In many countries, they continue to face stigma and discrimination as well as legal, attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their participation in their communities.

Discrimination can be as invidious as forced sterilization or as subtle as segregation and isolation through both physical and social barriers.  Persons with Down syndrome are often denied the right to equal recognition before the law, as well as the right to vote or be elected. Intellectual impairments have also been seen as legitimate grounds for depriving persons with Down syndrome of their liberty, and for holding them in specialized institutions, sometimes for their entire lives.

In many countries, girls and boys with intellectual disabilities lack sufficient access to mainstream education.  The prejudice that children with Down syndrome obstruct the education of others has led some parents of children with intellectual disabilities to put their children in special schools or keep them at home.  Yet research shows — and more people are coming to understand — that diversity in the classroom leads to learning and understanding that benefit all children. 

In honor of this global celebration, check out some of our galleries of little cuties with Down syndrome, personal stories from families, and helpful info for parents of kids with special needs: