March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day and staff and students at Cobblestone Elementary are honouring their peers who have Down syndrome by wearing funky socks. Two hundred and sixty nine students and staff members donned bright, colourful socks to get people talking about accessibility for people with Down Syndrome.
Grade 8 student Taylor Chalmers’ younger brother Ethan has Down Syndrome. Seeing the support of her teachers and peers in honouring this day has been really meaningful to her. “It’s so nice to see so many people supporting us. Growing up I see how other people look at my family when my brother is with us. To see so many people wearing funky socks to support people with Down syndrome means that maybe attitudes are changing.”
Shane and Grace Leonard’s son Emmett started kindergarten at Cobblestone this year. He has Down Syndrome. “We almost feel foolish because of all the reservations we had about sending Emmett to school,” Shane says. “It’s been so great to see the community around him, the support around him. We realize that he is so much more than this boy who was born differently, and it’s great to see him learning from his peers and the fact that they learn from his experiences too.” Grace adds, “It’s great to see so many people wearing socks because it shows that they care and accept Emmett. And, it’s a great chance for people who may not know much about Down syndrome (or are afraid to ask) to find an opening to talk about it.”
Samantha Yorksie teaches at Cobblestone and has an older brother with Down syndrome. “Recognising World Down Syndrome Day has been a great way to correct some misconceptions. Students in our primary classes thought that Down Syndrome was a disease and that it meant you couldn’t grow or talk. Reading My Friend Has Down Syndrome by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos allowed us to talk about openly about the abilities of people with Down syndrome. It’s exciting to educate kids about it at this age.”
Cobblestone Elementary has been focusing on building an inclusive community in classrooms and throughout extra-curricular opportunities. The school hosts a chapter of Best Buddies Canada which creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students with disabilities are invited to participate in all events and are welcomed into classrooms throughout the school. This year’s junior volleyball team included an enthusiastic student with Down syndrome as a fully participating team member!
Monday March 21, 2016 marks the 11th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day. Each year the voice of people with Down syndrome, and those who live and work with them, grows louder. People with Down syndrome, on an equal basis with other people, must be able to enjoy full and equal rights, both as children and adults. This includes the opportunity to participate fully in their communities. The reality for many is that prevailing negative attitudes result in low expectations, discrimination and exclusion, creating communities where children and adults with Down syndrome cannot integrate successfully with their peers. But where children with Down syndrome and other disabilities are given opportunities to participate, all children benefit from this and environments of friendship, acceptance, respect for everyone and high expectations are created. Not only this, but these environments prepare all today’s children for life as tomorrow’s adults, enabling adults with Down syndrome to live, work and participate, with confidence and individual autonomy, fully included in society alongside their friends and peers. On World Down Syndrome Day, Monday 21 March 2016, we encouraged children and adults with Down syndrome to get the world talking about the benefits for everyone of inclusive environments.
More info at https://worlddownsyndromeday.org