Everything You Need to Know
About World Down Syndrome Day

an illustration of four animated characters with matching yellow tops and blue pants, celebrating World Down Syndrome Day, with the event's logo above them.

World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated every March 21st across many countries. It’s a special occasion that brings people worldwide together to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion.

Let’s talk about how this day came to be and how it helps honor individuals with Down syndrome and raise awareness about the importance of acceptance.

What is World Down Syndrome Awareness Day?

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is an event recognized globally on March 21st. It’s an international awareness day officially acknowledged by the United Nations for Down syndrome.

Its purpose is to make the world aware of what Down syndrome is and emphasize the importance of valuing individuals with Down syndrome within their communities. WDSD provides a chance to advocate for their rights, inclusion, and overall well-being.

This day serves as a reminder that everyone, regardless of their abilities, deserves respect, love, and equal opportunities.

Why is World Down Syndrome Day Important?

All over the world, people with Down syndrome don’t get treated equally. They miss out on quality education, the chance to have a decent job and earn money, and proper healthcare. Plus, they often can’t make choices about their own lives because most of the time, their voices aren’t heard.

That’s why celebrating World Down Syndrome Day is so important. It helps us build a world that welcomes everyone, no matter how different they are. By recognizing neurodiversity which includes Down syndrome, we take a step towards a more inclusive world.

When people celebrate WDSD and talk about Down syndrome together, our voices become one and our message becomes louder!

Why is it Celebrated on March 21st?

World Down Syndrome Day is held on the 21st day of the 3rd month because the date symbolizes the genetic makeup that leads to Down syndrome – the triplication (or three copies) of the 21st chromosome.

What is Down Syndrome?

a smiling girl with down syndrome holding a guitar

Since we’re talking about Down syndrome awareness, you must know what Down syndrome is.

Down syndrome is a common developmental disability that happens in about one in every 691 people in the US. It’s a natural arrangement of chromosomes that are responsible for all our traits.

Usually, we have 23 pairs of chromosomes, but with Down syndrome, there’s an extra chromosome 21, making it a total of 47 chromosomes instead of 46. This condition can happen to anyone, no matter their race or gender.

Down syndrome got its name from the physician who first described it accurately, John Langdon Down. In 1866, he published a detailed account of individuals with the condition. He initially called it “Mongoloid” because of some physical similarities with people from Mongolia.

However, this disability term is no longer used and is considered offensive. The medical community adopted the term Down syndrome in recognition of Dr. Down’s work as it is the widely accepted and respectful name for this genetic condition.

Common Traits of a Person with Down Syndrome

People with Down syndrome sometimes look similar to one another (but not always). This is because of distinctive physical characteristics. Here are some common physical features of Down syndrome according to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH):

  • Eyes that slant upward
  • Smaller-than-average ears, mouth, and nose
  • Shorter arms and legs
  • A wide space between the big toe and the second toe
  • Short necks and small hands with short fingers
  • Shorter-than-average height
  • Low muscle tone and loose joints
a man with down syndrome wearing headphones

As for developmental and behavioral characteristics, well, everyone is different, so it will depend on the person! 

Many people with Down syndrome are very good at making friends! They often have great social skills and easily connect with others. 

Folks with Down syndrome often feel deeply, and have strengths in their ability to love and take care of others.

Kids with Down syndrome may take a bit more time to learn things like walking and talking compared to their peers. They sometimes experience mild to moderate intellectual disability. And they’re usually faced with differences related to attention span and memory.

People with Down syndrome may also have certain health issues, like heart problems, hearing loss, and vision difficulty.

While these are common traits, remember that everyone with Down syndrome is unique, so all of these may not apply to everyone.

How Can We Be Neurodiversity-Affirming
When It Comes to Down Syndrome?

People with Down syndrome are neurodivergent. That means their brains are wired differently. But it doesn’t mean it’s wrong or bad, it’s just different!

Being neurodiversity-affirming means recognizing and accepting that there are diverse ways in which people’s brains work, and that these differences are not illnesses that need to be fixed.

When it comes to Down syndrome, this involves creating inclusive environments, providing educational opportunities, and fostering a society that listens to the voices of individuals with diverse abilities.

One way of doing that is to join the fun and promote awareness on World Down Syndrome Day!

How Can You Participate in World Down Syndrome Day?

Participating in World Down Syndrome Day can be done in different ways. There’s usually a theme every year on which the events are based, but if your school or community doesn’t have a local event prepared, there are simple ways to support this campaign.

You can wear mismatched socks since they symbolize the extra chromosome and chromosomes are shaped like socks. You can also do a sock craftivity like tie-dye or stitching different things on your white socks to make them look funky.

What’s more, you can help promote awareness by posting about Down syndrome on social media.

If you’re an adult, you can support a small business run by someone with Down syndrome!

And if you’re a teacher like me, why not teach a lesson about Down syndrome awareness? This way, you can help your students understand more about Down syndrome.

It’s pretty easy to do when you have ready-made resources. You can begin with this free video for kids that explains what Down syndrome is.

In addition, you can provide readings and comprehension activities about Down syndrome for your students.

My students personally like this set of FREE coloring pages and activities for Down syndrome awareness. It’s simple, but it will surely leave a mark and is a great way to have your students participate in World Down Syndrome Day.

Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day is a powerful reminder that every person, regardless of their abilities, has value in our community. That’s why we should give everyone a chance to be heard and promote understanding of these differences.

By promoting inclusion and celebrating neurodiversity, we help build a world where everyone is accepted for who they are, even people with Down syndrome.

For a complete resource on Down Syndrome Awareness lessons, check out this bundle!