Opinion | Down Syndrome Awareness Month deserves more recognition

More awareness of the strengths people with Down syndrome have and barriers they still face is needed.

Ally Pronina, Opinions Columnist

To increase society’s knowledge of Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness Month deserves more local and national attention.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics regularly shares patient stories. Down Syndrome Awareness Month is a good time for them to share stories about patients with Down syndrome and bring attention to any possible health problems they have which deserve more attention, such as congenital heart defects.

Almost half of babies with Down syndrome have congenital heart defects, yet, this is an aspect of Down syndrome, and other genetic disorders, that the media often overlooks.

Good stories to tell during October are ones which show how Down syndrome does not prevent someone from having talents and abilities needed to make the world a better place.

A recent example of this is a person from my hometown of Pella, Iowa. Isaac Treimer, a cross-country runner with Down syndrome, crossed the finish line at the Little Hawkeye Conference meet this month. More stories like these can help people like Richard Dawkins, who told a woman it would be immoral to not abort a baby because they have Down syndrome, realize that no, aborting because of a Down syndrome diagnosis is not “civilized.”

One way the UI can contribute to these stories is by inviting speakers with Down syndrome on-campus to talk about their experiences and achievements. It would be interesting to hear stories from UI students with Down syndrome, as some people think people with Down syndrome can’t attend college due to learning disabilities, and the misconception that people with Down syndrome aren’t “smart.” The UI REACH (Realizing Education and Career Hope) Program provides opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, to attend college.

These types of narratives and facts deserve more attention because on a national level, people with Down syndrome are not always treated the best.

Three off-duty police officers killed Ethan Saylor, a man with Down syndrome in 2013, by crushing his larynx and were not held accountable. The men were working as security guards, and were called after Saylor tried to watch a movie at a cinema twice in a row because he did not understand his ticket was good for only a one-time showing. All Saylor wanted was to watch a movie, not hurt anybody.

As previously reported by the *The Daily Iowan*, the Iowa City Police Department is working on reforms such as collaborating with local disability organizations to create de-escalation processes in responding to residents with disabilities.

Stories like this deserve more national attention, and Down Syndrome Awareness Month is a good time to tell them. They can give police an idea of how to better respond to these situations.

They can also hopefully make some people in society more patient and think before using unnecessary force on an innocent man with an intellectual disability wanting to watch a movie again.

Down Syndrome Awareness Month deserves more recognition in order to bring attention to the successes of people with Down syndrome and challenges they still face. October is a good time to talk about how an extra X chromosome does not prevent someone from being able to fill the world with kindness and joy.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.