Upping the conversation on Down Syndrome

Upping the conversation on Down Syndrome
Students at the Stapeldon School donned wacky socks at school last Wednesday as they participated in World Down Syndrome Day.

On the heels of recognising World Down Syndrome Day, The Bahamas Down Syndrome Association (BDSA) said it is hopeful that the discussion – and further awareness of the disorder – is a conversation that will remain at the forefront of dialogue throughout the archipelago.

“I think for most people, they believe that persons with Down Syndrome are slow and incapable of learning or doing anything and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” shared Cheryl Newall, president of BDSA.

Since the establishment of the BDSA in 2007, organizers have sought to ‘protect, provide and pursue the betterment of all children and adults with Down Syndrome.’

The advocacy agency is also charged with generating greater public awareness and positive social acceptance.

“We want to get people to overcome any prejudice or discrimination they may have toward anyone with Down Syndrome – emphasising abilities and not disabilities,” said Newell.

“We recognise World Down Syndrome Day every year and every year it is our hope that the discussion continues about Down Syndrome; so that the wider community can appreciate what we do and how they can also join the effort to help those living with the chromosomal disorder.”

The association currently supports 45 students between the ages of four and 51.

“We realize that a huge part of changing the tide on the way Bahamians view persons with Down Syndrome, is by actually opening our doors and allowing them to interact with our kids on a volunteer basis. Our kids love being around other people and we welcome and encourage that,” said Newell.

The association currently boasts of a robust program that has been specifically designed to enhance its students’ learning and life skills.

“We are especially proud of our most recent introduction of ‘Ty’s Place’, it’s a coffee shop and juice bar which we established on our property that provides employment for those with Down Syndrome. We opened its doors in January 2018, but our official ribbon cutting was held March 21 to coincide with World Down Syndrome Day,” shared Newell.

Ty’s Place was named after Ty Bethell, a young Bahamian boy who was a member of the association’s learning facility.

He lost his battle with leukaemia in 2016 and the business was later named in his honour.

“We are grateful to those individuals and companies who have embraced our cause but there is so much more to be done.

“We hope that the wider community will see our need and assist us pushing the conversation within various sectors so that we can galvanize a greater effort toward enhancing the betterment of our special children.”