World Down Syndrome Day was celebrated with fun and laughter in Samoa on Wednesday. This year’s theme is “What I bring to my community”.
Celebrated around the world on 21 March, the date is significant because of the extra 21 chromosomes typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features and mild to moderate intellectual disability in children with Down syndrome.
Parents, friends and children with Down syndrome celebrated the day at the SENESE Inclusive Education Support Services in Vaitele.
The event focused on raising awareness about Down syndrome and the services that are now available to support children with Down syndrome.
More importantly it was to convey the message that people with Down syndrome should be recognised as valued citizens.
The day was full of fun activities where SENESE Secondary School teachers, students and representatives from the Special Olympics Samoa played games and activities including making the umu.
The highlight of the day was having the Speech and Language Therapist, Mulama Setu, give basic training on speech, language therapy and awareness on Down syndrome.
Educational Psychologist, Orita Faanu Asi, also talked about ways to overcome behavioural difficulties at home and in the classroom, sharing views and empowerment based on children with Down syndrome within their community.
The day was also an opportunity for parents to empower each other on treating their children with Down syndrome.
SENESE provides inclusive education support services for children with disabilities in regular schools.
SENESE is pleased and excited to be leading the commemoration this year with their partners and supporters.
An information booth was also set up for people to learn more about the condition and what they can do as a community to support the inclusion of people with Down syndrome.
The majority of people growing up with Down syndrome have the ability to achieve and participate as valued members of their communities, with varying support levels.
SENESE also acknowledged with appreciation the support of the Government of Samoa, the Government of Australia through D.F.A.T, Central Bank, Apia Bottling and Special Olympics Samoa, TV3.
What is Down syndrome?
Down syndrome (also known as trisomy 21) is a genetic condition in which the person has an extra copy of chromosome 21.
Chromosomes are the blueprint for the body’s development. They are found in every cell in our body and determine our physical and mental characteristics. The usual number of chromosomes is 46 (arranged in 23 matched pairs). People with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome 21 in their genetic make-up.
This additional chromosome results in a number of physical and developmental characteristics and some level of intellectual disability.
Approximately one in 800 babies is born with Down syndrome and around 70 percent are born to mothers under 35.
Down syndrome was named after Dr. Langdon Down who was the first person to describe the syndrome .