1. Learn more about Down syndrome! Here is a link to some Myths and Facts about Ds. http://www.ndss.org/index.
2. Talk to your children about people with differences. The way I explain Down syndrome to young children who are curious is to say that when a baby is first growing inside the mother there are directions inside the baby that tell it how to grow, what color hair and eyes it will have and how tall it will be. A baby with Down syndrome has an extra set of directions, which makes it more difficult for the baby to grow and develop. A baby with Down syndrome can learn to do all the things that a typical baby can do, it just takes longer to learn because of all the extra directions. Older kids can learn about chromosomes and how individuals with Down syndrome have an extra 21st chromosome. The medical name for Down syndrome is Trisomy 21. Visit my blog (or other blogs about disabilities) with your children, so they have a connection with someone with Ds. (warning: you might want to pre-read some of my posts…I cannot guarantee I’m not a raving lunatic at times. It can be frustrating having a child with a disability, and I try to give an accurate representation of life with Hannah). http://hannigans.blogspot.
3. See if your library has current information about Down syndrome. Do a quick online search of your library’s listings for Ds. If they have no books that have been written in the past 5-7 years, please ask them to update their books. Any non-fiction book older than 15 years should be removed from the shelves.
4. Visit Reece’s Rainbow, an international Down syndrome adoption ministry. Learn more about how children with Down syndrome are treated in other countries. It is much like the United States treated individuals with cognitive disabilities 50 years ago. http://www.reecesrainbow.c
5. Write a short note to your legislators telling them that you want them to fund the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act (the Kennedy-Brownback bill). Currently up to 90% of all prenatally diagnosed fetuses with Down syndrome are aborted. It’s important to understand that this is not about pro-life or pro-choice, but rather about providing parents with needed data and support. Unfortunately the worst presenters of a diagnosis of Down syndrome today are medical professionals because there are no mechanisms to train them, to teach them how to deliver that diagnosis and to present the options, all of the options.
6. If you’re a woman, start a conversation with your OB/Gyn about concerns you may have about getting accurate information to families that receive a prenatal diagnosis. Prenatal testing is soon going to change, and the OBs are the first to deliver unexpected news. Bring the doctor a copy of this research: http://www.brianskotko.com
7. Watch a movie featuring a person with a disability: Emma’s Gifts (I’m biased since Hannah and I have cameos in this documentary), Duo, The Other Sister (which I think is pretty funny).
8. Contact your local Down syndrome parent support group (just Google Down syndrome and your geographic area) and email them to see what sorts of ways you could help. Usually volunteers to assist with childcare, programs and events are more than welcome!
10. Remove the word “retarded” from your everyday speech. It used to be a medical term (as did the words “idiot”, “imbecile” and “moron”), but has become such a derogatory word that it is on its way out. The new “R-word” is Respect.