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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Up with Down Syndrome Awareness Month

  • When I mentioned to brother, Robert, that I was going to write about "National Down Syndrome Awareness Month" for my column this week, he said "be sure to tell everyone to be 'Up With Downs!'"

     


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  • When I mentioned to brother, Robert, that I was going to write about "National Down Syndrome Awareness Month" for my column this week, he said "be sure to tell everyone to be 'Up With Downs!'"
    Robert has a great sense of humor and likes wordplay.
    It's an acquired skill, not always appreciated at times, but having grown up in a highly literate household with two English majors and twice as many teachers for siblings and siblings-in-law, he couldn't escape it -- the family has a propensity for puns, spoonerisms, malapropisms, Tom Swifties and various verbifications and witty word play.
    "Okay," I said. "But what do mean by 'Up With Downs?'"
    "Well," he replied, "you know. . . it's good to be up and not down, so everyone should be up with Down Syndrome."
    And then, in typical Robert Johnson "I can do anything you can do" fashion, he added, "you know, if I do say so myself, I can write pretty good articles, too."
    "Okay," I said. "Why don't YOU tell people what you mean by "Up with Downs."
    So . . . here's Robert in his own words (with spelling help from me).
    UP WITH DOWNS
    by Robert Johnson
    Hi. My name is Robert Johnson.
    I'm 39 years old. I live in Devils Lake with my mom,
    I have other family here, too, like my brother Sam and his wife Mary, my sister Margie and Cliff Brekken, and my sister Kari Johnson.
    I work at Lake Region Corporation and the Devils Lake Recycling Center.
    I am helping Sam with this article about "Down Syndrome Awareness Month" because I have Down syndrome myself and I know all about it.
    Here is what I want you to know about Down Syndrome:
    1). Having Down Syndrome doesn't mean you are handicapped. People with DS can do lots of things.
    2). People with Down Syndrome are not retarded. I do not like this word because it is not "People First" language. People should not use the word "retarded" because it can hurt people.
    3). Down Syndrome is not a sickness, illness, or disease. It is a condition that you are born with.
    4). People with Down Syndrome are able to learn lots of things if they have good teachers.
    5). People with Down Syndrome should not be treated different, but the same, only with special needs.
    6). People with Down Syndrome are people first and should be treated the same as all
    people -- and that's with respect.
    7). Finally, I want to say . . . don't look down on people with Down Syndrome,
    look up -- UP WITH DOWNS!
    Page 2 of 2 - And last but not least, I want to say how much I like living in Devils Lake and meeting new people all the time. I hope to meet YOU some day, too!
    And now Sam will tell you some more things about "Down Syndrome Month."
     
    Thanks, Robert.
    Yes, since 1981, the month of October has been recognized as “National Down Syndrome Awareness Month”
    Parent organizations such as the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC),  the National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS), and “the ARC,” along with hundreds of their affiliate organizations, sponsor public presentations, conduct special activities like “the Buddy Walk,” and distribute public service information and announcements (perhaps you've seen the ARC ad on TV with Robert picking up recyclables in Devils Lake), to celebrate "Down Syndrome Awareness Month" in recognition of the many abilities and achievements of people with Down Syndrome.
    In each case, the goal is the same: to promote awareness that “We’re More Alike Than Different,” and that people with Down Syndrome are capable people with many different abilities and interests.
    Here are some things these groups want you to know:
    • Down Syndrome is a relatively common genetic disorder that affects one in 691 newborns. It occurs when an individual has three, instead of two copies of chromosome 21. 
     • As a result of the additional genetic material, individuals with Down Syndrome experience developmental difficulties that range from minimal to severe, however, the majority of cases fall within the mild to moderate range.
    • Down Syndrome knows no barriers of race, nationality, social class or religion. Over 400,000 people in the United States are living with Down syndrome, and the lives of many others are also touched by this genetic disorder.
     It’s amazing to think that less than 35 years ago, many people with Down Syndrome were routinely institutionalized.
    Thanks to the work of parents and advocacy groups (like those mentioned above), medical advances, early intervention, classroom inclusion, increased opportunities, and loving support of families and communities, individuals with Down Syndrome can and do live healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives.
    Many individuals with Down Syndrome graduate from high school and some attend college. Many are employed, and perform their jobs in an exemplary way.
    As with so many things, education, familiarity, and awareness are important to dispelling the many misconceptions about Down Syndrome, and key to realizing that we are all “More Alike Than Different.”
    (Go to www.samjohnsonjournal.com for more information on this topic, and to read other columns and commentaries by Sam Johnson).

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