Despite advances in the understanding and general management of Down syndrome, the condition is still associated with a certain amount of stigma. It is important that individuals with this condition receive support from their family, friends and society at large.
All people with Down syndrome have some degree of learning disability and therefore require special educational support as they grow up. The parents of people with Down syndrome are also in need of social and organizational support in order to help them understand the condition and its associated complications.
Historically, people with Down syndrome were removed from general society and confined in institutions or colonies. It was only in the mid-twentieth century that parents, physicians, researchers and organizations supporting people with Down syndrome managed to start changing the way individuals with Down syndrome and other disorders were viewed and treated by society. As individuals with the condition have become increasingly integrated into normal society, their situation has gradually improved, with many now educated alongside other children in regular schools.
Some of the supportive organizations for people with Down syndrome include the National Association for Down Syndrome that was founded in the United States by Kathryn McGee in 1960. A similar organization is MENCAP, which supports people with all forms of learning disability and was founded in the United Kingdom in 1946 by Judy Fryd. The National Down Syndrome Congress was founded as a first national organization in 1973 by Kathryn McGee and others.
The first World Down Syndrome Day was held 21 March 2006. During their European congress in Palma de Mallorca, the European Down Syndrome Association proclaimed the day, which was chosen as a way of symbolising chromosome 21. In the United States, Down Syndrome month is observed every October by the National Down Syndrome Society.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc