March is always a busy month around here. It kicks off with us celebrating my husband’s birthday and doesn’t stop until World Down Syndrome Day has come and gone.
Robert celebrates his birthday only days before World Down Syndrome Day. We stay up prepping for both, as they are both special celebrations in our home.
In addition to wrapping gifts for Robert’s birthday and making him a banner to hang on the wall, we also need to think about how we are going to honour our boy at school for World Down Syndrome Day. Luckily, our local Joe Fresh at The Real Canada Superstore donates socks for our kids’ classrooms.
At our house, Down Syndrome Day begins with reaching out to Joe Fresh for those socks, and then packaging them for school with unique tags I created in French and English. This allows all children to participate in WDSD. The socks are a tangible item that increases the odds of a child bringing up the topic and home, and provides parents with a starting point to discuss Down syndrome with their child.
I also made a poster this year – again in French and English -and ordered sugar cookies to hand out (made by a fellow parent in the DS community). Our school has shared the poster, and many of our friends and family members have requested a digital copy to share in their workplaces (THANK YOU!).
On top of the school activities, we attended an event run by our friend @The.McLeanFamily on World Down Syndrome Day, where she raised over $4,000 for our local DS association. We’ve also committed to helping organize crafts for our Local Down Syndrome Association’s WDSD Event to be held next weekend. All this while engaging our kids in conversation about Down Syndrome.
Speaking of engaging children… do you know what to say if your kids ask about Down syndrome? Quickly, here’s an idea of what we share with our younger children about Down Syndrome.
Down syndrome is when someone has an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. Chromosomes are what make us, US! and most people we know have 46 chromosomes. Robert, and people like him, have 47. Isn’t that neat? It’s what tells our body how tall to grow or what colours our eyes should be. Because most of us have 46 chromosomes, we are all able to learn and grow in a similar way. People with Down Syndrome learn and grow differently. It’s not bad, it’s just different. It’s why sometimes you get frustrated that Robert doesn’t understand the rules of the games you’re inventing, and why he is able to put his foot to his ear when mommy can barely get anywhere near her head. Knowing that he’s different means that we can practice empathy and patience. People with Down Syndrome need a little more time to process. Imagine I’m speaking to you really quickly and asking you to do 10 things in a row. You might find it hard to understand what I said and what I’m asking you to do. You might only do 2 of those things because that’s all you could remember and understand. Sometimes, Robert feels like that. He feels like we are moving much quicker than he is and he struggles as a result. You know what helps? Slowing down, repeating and encouraging him. What does he like to do that you also like to do? Isn’t it fun to have someone in your life who will read with you and play pirates?
And that’s it. We move on. We don’t hide the fact that Robert has down syndrome, but we don’t dwell on it either. And if you are someone who enjoys reading books about differences with your children, here are some of our favourites (affiliate links):
- What’s Inside You Is Inside Me, Too
- Être différent c’est merveilleux: Un livre illustré à propos de diversité et de bonté
- Tout Le Monde
- Different – A Great Thing To Be!
- You Are Enough: A Book About Inclusion
Now that we’ve all celebrated WDSD and spread awareness about Down Syndrome : tell us what the reaction was at your children’s school, in your workplace or in your community? Did people ask you questions? Let me know!