Thrive is an organization made up of people with a variety of experiences and backgrounds, identifying themselves with numerous communities. This includes the neurodivergent community as well. Neurodiversity is a concept that has gained increasing recognition and acceptance in recent years. It acknowledges that human brains are diverse and that differences in neurological wiring are a natural and valuable aspect of human variation. The following is one of many stories from our Thrivers that celebrate the neurodivergent community. Thank you for sharing your family story, Julie!
Written by Julie Isom
People with Down syndrome (DS) are born with 3 copies of the 21st chromosome, giving them a little something “extra” compared to typically developing individuals who have only two. This is why we recognize and celebrate World Down Syndrome Day on 3/21.
This additional chromosome results in distinctive physical characteristics, such as slanted eyes, a flattened nose bridge, short stature, low muscle tone, and other traits. People with DS are also more likely to experience medical conditions like heart problems, vision and hearing impairments, and a higher risk of infections. However, it is essential to remember that individuals with DS are people first and should not be defined solely by their condition.
My daughter, Madi, for example, is not just the “Down syndrome girl” at school – she is a fellow classmate and attentive student with beautiful hair, a caring heart, and fearlessness who happens to have DS. She is greatly loved at school by her friends and teachers.
Madi and others with DS can achieve anything that we can, but they might require a bit more help or a little more time. Even though Madi needs to put in more effort than her typical peers to reach her goals, it makes her successes that much more exciting. Every day, we cheer her on in achieving tasks that others can so easily accomplish, such as dressing herself, feeding herself, sitting on a swing, jumping, and even talking. Before having Madi, we were unaware that climbing a staircase without assistance would require her to complete five other goals before mastering a skill we may take for granted. We celebrate every step towards progress in our house!
It’s true – we may not always understand Madi’s words, but she certainly understands us. Though her responses aren’t as quick as we’ve come to expect, she will express herself in her own way in her own time. It is important to remember that while Madi communicates differently from others, this does not diminish her worth as a person. It is hurtful to use terms such as dumb, stupid, idiot, or, worst of all, retarded when referring to anyone. Let us remove these words from our vocabulary when describing people. Madi is a determined and strong-willed girl who will not hesitate to call you out!
It’s essential to increase awareness about DS to start making positive differences. Take the initiative to learn more and connect with people like Madi or others in your communities. Consider contributing your time as a volunteer at a hospital or school. Additionally, you can show your support by donating to organizations such as Ruby’s Rainbow or local groups like the Down Syndrome Center of Puget Sound. Remember, every small act of kindness and compassion can create a ripple effect of love and positivity!
To learn more about World Down Syndrome Day, visit worlddownsyndromeday.org.