By Mudassir Raja
The World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is marked on March 21 every year.
People with Down syndrome and those who live and work with them throughout the world organise and participate in activities and events to raise public awareness and create a single global voice for advocating the the rights, inclusion and well-being of people with Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is a genetic condition a person is born with caused by having an extra 21st chromosome.
It is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has always been a part of the human condition, being universally present across racial, gender, and socio-economic lines. According to the UN, it affects about 1 in 800 births worldwide causing some level of health and development challenges along with some level of intellectual disability.
There are many groups and organisations that hold different seminars and workshops to raise awareness on DSD in Qatar.
Most recently, EdClude in partnership with Global Shapers Doha Hub celebrated WDSD by hosting a seminar at Student’s Center in Education City.
EdClude is a community-based organisation that works to promote awareness on Down syndrome and other special needs and advocates for an inclusive education system.
Speaking at the seminar, Nawal Hafeez, co-founder of EdClude and Vice-Curator of Global Shapers Doha, said: “By having an all-inclusive education system, people with diverse needs can be given the opportunity to share the same spaces of learning and development with the rest of the community and it will lead to an overall inclusive and accepting society.
EdClude also provides the families – having children with special needs – a support space where they can voice out their concerns and share their opinions and also give them the opportunity to connect with each other in the community.
The ‘World Down Syndrome Day Seminar’ focused on successful transitioning of people with Down syndrome – being able to lead an independent life.
Nawal Hafeez further said: “We need to educate ourselves about the needs and abilities that people with Down syndrome or, as a matter of fact, with special needs have so that we are prepared to interact with them and are prepared to offer them our support towards a more inclusive and accepting society. We need to believe in the philosophy that people with Down syndrome can do more or less anything that you and I can.”
The seminar witnessed over 60 attendees including officials from Qatar Foundation, Education Above All, Qatar Academy, teachers, social activists, families, and children with special needs.
Bushra Resham, a programmes coordinator at Education Above All and co-founder of EdClude, has a family member with Down syndrome. Speaking on the occasion, she shared three lessons she has learned in life while growing up with a sister having Down syndrome. She said: “Do not let Down syndrome create doubts about your child’s abilities as it does not define the child’s personality and the kind of lives they will live. When given a chance, they can prove to be achievers and successful individuals. For that to happen, we all need to play a part in supporting them – not just the family members.”
James Halls, a Student Services Coordinator at Qatar Foundation, said: “Due to better care and facilities, the people with Down syndrome are living longer. Hence, more and more people are interacting with them, increasing our need for widespread public education and acceptance.”
He added: “This need has led to many successful stories. Johns’s Crazy Socks – retail store - is a father-son venture inspired by co-founder John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome whose affinity for crazy socks paired with his love of making people smile turned in to a successful business of socks. Another success story is that of Zhou Zhou, an orchestra conductor with Down syndrome in China, who has perfected his art and gained much applause and appreciation.”
The highlight of the seminar was a presentation by children with special needs from EdClude’s Special Education Needs Program.
The three students namely; Jason, Amal, and Sabah talked about what Down syndrome is, how it is to live with it, and how it is to be friends with someone who has Down syndrome.
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