October is often associated with cooler weather, autumn leaves, fall festivals, Halloween, and pumpkin spice everything, but it is also notable for one other important reason: It is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
Since the early 1980s, the National Down Syndrome Society has designated the month of October as an opportunity to raise awareness and celebrate the abilities and accomplishments of loved ones with Down syndrome. The organization seeks to break down barriers and focus on advocacy for people with the genetic variation.
Approximately 5,100 babies are born each year with Down syndrome in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is about one out of every 772 live births. More than 400,000 Americans are living with Down syndrome.
Persons with Down syndrome have a partial or full extra copy of the 21st chromosome. This additional genetic material affects the course of development and produces the characteristics associated with the syndrome.
Some of the features common among individuals with Down syndrome, according to the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas (DSG), include “low muscle tone, … loose joints, almond-shaped upward-slanting eyes, a flattened face and/or nose bridge, a smaller stature, … a single crease across the palm of the hand, … a protruding or larger tongue, and mild to moderate cognitive delays.”
Babies born with Down syndrome develop like all other babies but at a slightly delayed pace. They may also have an increased risk for certain medical conditions, such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing issues, Alzheimer’s, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions.
The life expectancy for individuals with Down syndrome has increased dramatically over the past few decades, from 25 in 1983 to 60 and older today.
Individuals with Down syndrome can lead full and rich lives with the support of friends, family, and community, good health care, quality education, and a stimulating home environment. They can attend college, work, go on dates, get married, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.
They can also participate in sports. Many individuals with Down syndrome have excelled in a wide variety of athletic endeavors in the Special Olympics since its inception in 1968, including swimming, basketball, gymnastics, endurance events, and triathlons.
In the local area, the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas provides information and resources for individuals with the syndrome and their families. The nonprofit serves 62 counties in Texas, with a particular focus on the 13 counties in the DFW metroplex.
The DSG offers programs for new and expectant parents, age-appropriate groups for individuals with Down syndrome, recreational and leisure opportunities, social events, educational programs, medical research, insurance and financial aid information, and many other resources.
On October 23, the DSG held the 2022 Buddy Walk in Frisco at the Toyota FC Dallas Stadium. The annual event is the signature fundraising and awareness event for the DSG, bringing together more than 5,000 individuals with Down syndrome, their families, friends, and community supporters.
The event included an awareness walk celebrating the abilities and accomplishments of individuals with Down syndrome and other fun activities, such as inflatable bounce houses, music, games, face painting, vendor booths, and more.
Worldwide, Buddy Walks collectively raise more than $14 million each year for local Down syndrome programs, outreach, and support.
For more information on Down syndrome or volunteer opportunities, check out the DSG website here.