Today, March 21, is World Down’s Syndrome Day (WDSD).
It’s a yearly global awareness day where we get to shout about Down’s syndrome and how people with Down’s syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.
Quick school lesson: The date for WDSD, being the 21st day of the third month, was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down’s syndrome.
In other words, Eilidh has got three copies of chromosome number 21, rather than the two that I’ve got and it is this small difference that gives her all her awesomeness.
This year’s theme is ‘‘Leave No One Behind’’.
The reality is that negative attitudes, low expectations, discrimination and exclusion ensure that people with DS are left behind.
The good news is that, even by reading this column, you are helping to make a difference and change the prevailing perceptions.
We’ve been doing our bit too. Eilidh and I made a wee video poking some fun at the low expectations that were set when she was born.
It was viewed over 30,000 times on social media over the weekend which means a lot of people are a now better educated about Down’s syndrome than they were before they clicked on Facebook that day.
Here’s a couple of the common misconceptions that Eilidh is helping to shrug off:
1. All people with DS are happy and loving. Just like everyone else, Eilidh can be very happy and full of charm and love, like her dad.
On the flip side, she can also be an absolute horror and a grumpy, stubborn little monster. Like mum!
2. People with DS can’t learn to read. Eilidh is loving learning to read. She even asks to do lessons on Saturday morning which is even more geeky than golden boy big brother.
3. Children with DS can’t attend mainstream schools. So far, so good for Eilidh who is fitting in really well at school. It’s not always easy and we don’t know what the future will hold but today she is doing brilliantly and has a great bunch of friends and teachers at Comely Park Primary.
So next Thursday do what you can to help challenge some of the negative perceptions.
Talk to your children about DS, share some of the good news stories on social media or even wear your odd socks to show your support (apparently chromosomes look a bit like a pair of socks ...).
You could also donate a few pounds to support the great work that the DS Scotland charity undertake.
Just find the Virgin Giving link on my DownWithDad Facebook page.
Above all, shake off any of your own negative perceptions and see the person beyond the disability. Like myself, you might be surprised by what you’ll learn.