March 21 Is World Down Syndrome Day

Today’s special date was chosen as World Down Syndrome Day for its symbolism — the numbers 3 and 21 represent ”the third copy of chromosome 21 present in Trisomy 21, the most common form of Down syndrome.”  According to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS.org), “this additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.”  The NDSS Down Syndrome Fact Sheet also reveals that 1 in every 691 babies in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome, and there are more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in our country.

Although World Down Syndrome Day was established by Down Syndrome International in 2006 to encourage worldwide awareness about Down syndrome issues, this is the first official year the United Nations will be observing it.   To honor this day, NDSS.org is highlighting the My Great Story campaign, a monthly column that now features over 400 inspiring true stories by and about people with Down syndrome.  You can watch a 30-second video featuring actor Chris Burke, who played Corky on the series “Life Goes On” and who is the NDSS Goodwill Ambassador, talking about the campaign. (Fun fact: Chris Burke is also the uncle of Parents magazine’s Senior Health Editor.)

Join in increasing Down syndrome awareness today and every day. You can read 21 Facts About Down Syndrome, click on the jump below to read a Preferred Language Guide, and tweet on Twitter using the #321 hashtag.

More features about Down syndrome on Parents.com

Preferred Language Guide (reprinted with permission from NDSS.org)

Down vs. Down’s – NDSS uses the preferred spelling, Down syndrome, rather than Down’s syndrome. While Down syndrome is listed in many dictionaries with both popular spellings (with or without an apostrophe s), the preferred usage in the United States is Down syndrome. This is because an “apostrophe s” connotes ownership or possession. Down syndrome is named for the English physician John Langdon Down, who characterized the condition, but did not have it. 

People with Down syndrome should always be referred to as people first. Instead of “a Down syndrome child,” it should be “a child with Down syndrome.” Also avoid “Down’s child” and avoid describing the condition as “Down’s,” as in, “He has Down’s.” 
 
Down syndrome is a condition or a syndrome, not a disease.
 
People “have” Down syndrome do not “suffer from” it and are not “afflicted by” it.
 
While it is( unfortunately) clinically acceptable to say “mental retardation,” you should use the more socially acceptable “intellectual disability.”  NDSS strongly condemns the use of the word “retarded” in any derogatory context.  Using this word is hurtful and suggests that people with disabilities are not competent.

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