Nov. 1 to Nov. 7 is Canadian Down Syndrome Week. Kamloops resident Dave Ralph is president of the Thompson Nicola Ups and Downs Society and has written the following in advance of the week.
The week celebrates people with Down syndrome (DS) and raises awareness about this genetic condition that in Canada affects one in each 781 births.
DS is also known as trisomy 21, a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. People with DS may have some common physical traits that vary in degree, such as low muscle tone, small stature in children and adults and learning disabilities in children that may carry over into adulthood.
It can also cause other more severe medical abnormalities, including heart and gastrointestinal disorders. Severe internal health problems can result in an increase in hospital stays and causes or contributes to developmental progress. Delayed speech development and reduced hearing is common and can make communication with others difficult.
Each person with DS is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees — or not at all. People with DS, and other special abilities, have their own unique challenges and it is important that communities support those individuals and their families in whatever way they feel most comfortable.
All people, including those with unique or special abilities, wish to be a part of their community and engage in local activities.
Special Olympics Kamloops has a great sports program for all people with special abilities, including DS, that engage all athletes in a variety of winter and summer sports. There are many businesses in Kamloops that also support people with Down syndrome and other abilities by offering employment opportunities.
It is important that people with varying abilities should be included and welcomed by our communities. Thank you to all the individuals and groups in the Kamloops region and beyond that support people with special abilities and Special Olympics.
The next time you see a person with a special ability, greet them with a smile and a “Hello.” Your day will be uplifted by a heartfelt “Hi” and a smile back.
For more information on the Thompson Nicola Ups and Downs Society, visit the Facebook page by clicking here.