October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month and the Signing Time Foundation is proud to be a long-standing supporter of children with Down syndrome and their families. Signing Time Co-founder Rachel Coleman has often be found at National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) Buddy Walks around the country, and we’ve been working hard to build a great database of resources for you to use when signing with children who have Down syndrome.

The goal of the Buddy Walk is to promote understanding and acceptance of people with Down syndrome. “My September and October weekends are filled with Buddy Walks!” says Rachel. “At each Buddy Walk, where I am performing, I create a Team Signing Time and I invite all of our Signing Time families in the surrounding area to be a part of it. You don’t have to know someone with Down syndrome to participate. It’s always a wonderful experience for all. If you are a Signing Time Family at a Down Syndrome Buddy Walk, you will see that these too are places “where friends can meet and find we’re not so different after all!’”

Rachel Colemen at 2012 Sioux Falls, SD Buddy Walk

If you’re not very familiar with Down syndrome, here’s a little lesson. It is a genetic condition caused by an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. Each year, about 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome, which is about 1 in every 733 babies born. Generally, there can be some challenges within the domains of cognition, language, and muscle development, as well as a variety of health concerns that may crop up.

Between 1979 and 2003, the number of babies born with Down syndrome increased by about 30%. Older mothers are more likely to have a baby affected by Down syndrome than younger mothers. In other words, the prevalence of Down syndrome increases as the mother’s age increases. Prevalence is an estimate of how often a condition occurs among a certain group of people. To estimate the prevalence of Down syndrome, the number of pregnancies affected by Down syndrome is compared to the total number of live births.

Children with Down syndrome often have a lag in expressive language, while their receptive language may develop more quickly. In other words, they may struggle more to express themselves and yet understand what is said to them more readily than may appear. Sign language bridges that gap, allowing children to express themselves with their hands when the words are not quite ready to come out.

The use of American Sign Language (ASL) can open up the world of communication for children who have Down syndrome because it supports the development of expressive language, functional communication, and social skills. Both parents and professionals appreciate the convenience it affords. With signs, there is no communication device or book to tote, no charging or replacing batteries, no forgetting it at home. Your hands are always with you! In addition to providing a convenient form of functional communication, signing helps children with speech and language disorders improve both their receptive and expressive language skills!

Resources for Children with Down Syndrome

Celebrating 40 years

NATIONAL DOWN SYNDROME SOCIETY FOUNDED 1979

Carson Goodwin was born to Barton and Betsy Goodwin in 1978. Upon learning she had Down syndrome, the Goodwins dedicated themselves to gathering as much information as possible and creating opportunities for Carson to grow and learn like any other child. They soon discovered that support and resources available to parents of a child with Down syndrome were very limited. Betsy began collaborating with her close friend, Arden Moulton, and in 1979 the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) gained official nonprofit status.

In 1995 NDSS introduced The Buddy Walk® as a way to promote acceptance and inclusion of all people with Down syndrome. There are over 250 walks events nationwide today. The Buddy Walk® was ranked in the top 30 fundraising events nationwide for money raised.

In the early 2000’s the NDSS established its National Policy Center in Washington, D.C. to work with members of Congress and federal agencies to develop and improve laws, and regulations and other policies; train and educate patents, self-advocates and others to advocate on the local, state, and national levels; lead and participate in coalitions of national disability organization, and lead a comprehensive national advocacy program for Down syndrome.

In 2017, NDSS launched the End #LawSyndrome campaign, addressing a series of antiquated laws that impede the pursuit of a career of living independently without risking Medicaid benefits for individuals with Down syndrome.

The following video highlighting the accomplishments of people with Down syndrome who were not held back by limitations.

Rachel & Hopkins Kanas 2015

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