While October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month and we make intentional efforts to make you aware of the abilities of those with Down syndrome, for hundreds of thousands of us, we do Down syndrome advocacy 24/7. Every year people want to know what they can do or how they can support Rachel and others with Down syndrome. These are some of my favorite ways:
- You can share my favorite video with my favorite girl Just Like You-Down Syndrome (see below.) Social media is a fantastic way to share but consider offering a showing to your friends, your kids’ friend, civic groups, schools, church and other youth organizations. I share it with a High School Fellowship of Christian Athletes group a few years ago. Many Several of Rachel’s friends around the country have shown Just Like You at their schools. Many have no one at their school with Down syndrome but they wanted others to see their friend Rachel! Rachel and her parents consider that a great honor and a win!
- If you have a student at your school with Down syndrome, ask for your child/student to be in their class. If you are an educator, request to have that student assigned to your class and work with the parents to make meaningful inclusion work. If you don’t have a grade level peer with Down syndrome, maybe there is someone with another intellectual disability in your school and you could make that same request for that person.
- Invite someone with Down syndrome to go to the Friday night football game, bonfire, homecoming dance, lunch, pep rally or other school events with you and your group of friends or family. Communicate with the person’s parents. And then, be responsible and watch out for them so their parents won’t have to worry.
- Walk in or volunteer at the local Down Syndrome Awareness Walk. There are Buddy Walks and Step Up for Down Syndrome Walks all over the place. I think of our friend Melina (Bat Mitzvah – Just Like You) who organized a team a few years ago at the Chicagoland Buddy Walk! You could also volunteer, sponsor or particpate in one of the other fundraising or educational events your local group hosts. Or host a fundraiser for a group!
- Support Down Syndrome Research by making a donation to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation or LuMind Foundation. Did you there is may be a connection between Down syndrome and some medical conditions such Alzheimer’s? Wouldn’t you want to support research that might provide breakthrough treatments in Alzheimer’s patient and improve the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome? Read more here – Alzheimer’s Disease and Down Syndrome Research Grants
- Do you own a business? Consider being a sponsor for a Down syndrome event. This is a terrific way to get your name out in the community while supporting a great cause. You might even organize teams or volunteers to be part of the event.
- Would your employer consider hiring an individual with Down syndrome? Reach out to a local Down syndrome group or another group serving individuals with disabilities and learn more about how you can employee someone with Down syndrome. One of my precious business owner friends here in Kansas City reached out a few months ago and said, “We have a job at my husband’s office that we think someone with Down syndrome could do. How do we make that happen?” I referred her to the local Down syndrome organization and they are working toward making this happen!
- Words matter. Never use the R-word or other derogatory language when speaking about a person with Down syndrome. It is insulting, humiliating, unfair, hurtful and just wrong. Here’s a link where you can take the pledge and share with others – End the Use of the R-word
There are many other opportunities to spread awareness and support individuals with Down syndrome. I hope you will choose one or more ways to support Rachel and others with Down syndrome. Rachel says, “It would be phenomenal and make my heart happy if you would help people see we are Just Like You!”
If you need more direction, contact the Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action, National Down Syndrome Congress, or National Down Syndrome Society . They can direct you to nearby affiliates or other efforts.
NOTE: It’s been five years since the red carpet premier of Just Like You – Down Syndrome. Jen from Just Like You Films and Amy from the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City invited Rachel to answers some questions and tell everyone what she’s been doing for five years. Click her to see Rachel’s Just Like You Update!