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World Down Syndrome Day celebrated across the globe

PHOTO PROVIDED CRDSS Vice President Katie Feliz of State College, shown here with daughter Emberly, will host a virtual 321 Dance Party for individuals who have Down syndrome on March 21 to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day.

STATE COLLEGE — Celebrated on the 21st day of the third month of the year, World Down Syndrome Day signifies the unique triplication of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.

Established in 2006 by the United Nations, this day is observed around the world to help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a role in lives and communities.

Wearing mismatched socks is just one way people will support the Down syndrome community on this day.

The Centre Region Down Syndrome Society (CRDSS) serves the Down syndrome community in Centre and six adjoining counties. This vibrant, hands-on organization provides individuals who have Down syndrome and their families the tools, resources, and support necessary to participate in, contribute to, and achieve personal health and fulfillment.

CRDSS Executive Director Heather House says her community is ready for the day.

“March 21st is a time for recognition and celebration, and wearing mismatched socks is a fun and unique way to get people talking. Sure many of us are still on screen, but our members, for example, are going to have a Zoom 321 Dance Party! And you can be sure we’ll be showing off our feet,” she said.

House continues, “Sporting mismatched socks on March 21 grabs attention and can direct the conversation to World Down Syndrome Day and its goal to raise awareness of Down syndrome. So let’s get our socks on everyone! And not just any mismatched socks — have fun with bright colors, extra-long socks and some with pom poms. Maybe even three socks, one for each chromosome!”

Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels, though older women have an increased chance of having a child with Down syndrome. Since many couples are postponing parenting until later in life, the incidence of Down syndrome conception is expected to increase. Therefore, genetic counseling for parents is becoming increasingly important. Still, many physicians are not fully informed about advising their patients regarding the incidences of Down syndrome, advancements in diagnosis, and the protocols for care and treatment of babies born with Down syndrome.

CRDSS is ready to serve.

The organization is active year-round with programs such as their Enrichment Fund, which specifically fuels activities that keep people with Down syndrome physically active and socially engaged. House added, “Thanks to a successful Buddy Walk fundraiser this past October, we expanded the fund’s budget to assist more families than ever before in purchasing adaptive equipment and participating in activities that enhance the lives of their loved one with Down syndrome. It brings the board of directors great joy when we are able to support families in purchasing adaptive bikes or defray the cost of therapeutic horseback riding and swimming lessons.”

Other current programs include educational workshops, such as a recent class via Zoom that explored the use of assistive technology to enhance communication.

“Those involved in our organization will all tell you — it’s about community,” continued House. “We are constantly striving to reach everyone we can in our region. We know how important our parent meetups via Zoom have been, for families to share their experiences, frustrations and triumphs and get answers to their questions from other parents in similar situations.”

Due to advances in medical technology, individuals with Down syndrome are living longer than ever before. In 1910, children with Down syndrome were expected to survive to age nine. With the discovery of antibiotics, the average survival age increased to 19 or 20. Now, with recent advancements in clinical treatment, most particularly corrective heart surgeries, as many as 80% of adults with Down syndrome reach age 60, and many live even longer. More and more Americans are interacting with individuals with Down syndrome, increasing the need for widespread public education and acceptance.

CRDSS is one of over 300 regional chapters across the US that provide an array of benefits to help better service the Down syndrome community. Collectively, they strive to work on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and the professionals involved with a variety of services. To learn more about the local chapter, visit www.centreregiondownsyndrome.org.

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