What is World Down Syndrome Day and why is it on March 21st every year?


Here is a quote from their website:  https://www.worlddownsyndromeday.org/:

“World Down Syndrome Day, 21 March, is a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012.” You can click further on their website for more information, but the organization’s main purpose is to educate able-bodied people about Downs Syndrome.


Why is it celebrated every year on March 21st? The formal name for Down Syndrome is Trisomy 21, which means people with Downs have an extra 21st chromosome. March is the third month of the year, and so the United Nations chose the 21st day of the month to make it easy for people to relate to the date.


What’s Up with the “Assume That I Can” Campaign?


I’m so glad you asked! If you know much about me or my family, you know that my husband and I have two adult children with Down Syndrome. Our son is now thirty-four and our daughter is thirty-one years old. We don’t parade them around like badges of honour but we are proud of our success in raising them to be productive people with full lives. Lives with meaningful work and activities and lots of love and friendships.


However, I am particularly upset with this year’s video put out by the National Down Syndrome Society called “Assume That I Can So Maybe I Will”. Here it is:





I’ll sit here and sip on my coffee while you watch it – it’s only 1:30 long. Go ahead – I’ll wait.


Finished? All right…what did we see that was positive?


  • Learning how to read Shakespeare,
  • punching a weight bag,
  • and living on her own – although notice there were two other girls sitting on the couch with her.


Those seem like admirable goals, right? Who doesn’t want that for their child?

Although having taken Shakespeare myself, it hasn’t particularly enhanced my adult life, beyond learning literary themes and some memorable characters. I learned to punch a weight bag when I was a police officer and I lived on my own for many years before getting married.

But do I have Down Syndrome? No, I do not.


What really disturbs me about this video (and I will share these in a letter to the NDSS) are these things:


  • we see a beautiful, young Down Syndrome woman being encouraged to drink alcohol
  • we see her “partying”, presumably in a bar; a place so many able-bodied young women are subject to predatory behaviour and often sexually assaulted through being drugged in their alcoholic drinks
  • we see a blurred couple of frames where she’s supposedly having sex
  • and then she’s swearing and using the F-Bomb, like it’s some badge of honour


In a world where the addiction rate of alcohol and drugs is sky high, why would the NDSS try to promote “normalcy” to our Downs people by showing the so-called advantages of drinking alcohol? Drinking in bars is the gateway to many other things, like drugs, sex with near strangers or strangers, and the above predatory behaviour.


Before anyone goes all high-moral roads on me, I was a police officer, remember? I spent a lot of time taking drunks out of bars, rescuing young women from dire situations they never thought they’d find themselves in, and arresting impaired drivers. Alcohol reduces inhibitions and self-control.


Why would we want our Downs people made vulnerable to other people who are drunk or high, because now we’ve let them think it’s “normal” for them to want to drink too? What parent of a young Downs woman seriously wants her daughter going out for a couple of margaritas with her “friends” to dance the night away? The thought is terrifying to me.


There likely are some Downs people who are “high-functioning” enough that they might have a loving and sexual relationship with another Downs person or someone else with an intellectual disability. I’ve read articles about married couples who have Downs. I once dreamed of that for my two kids as well. However, they both reached a plateau where we realized that won’t be in their future.


As for Downs people living on their own? That is a blatant lie being promoted in this video. It’s also promoted by social agencies strapped for government cash, and by the very governments who should take care of these precious people. I do not know of a single Downs person who can live ON THEIR OWN. They are too vulnerable to abuse from able-bodied people. They will give anyone the shirt off their back – and their pay cheque. They will let anyone come into their room, apartment, or house, if they think the person is a “friend”.


They are VULNERABLE and need to be allowed to be independent under supervision. As parents, it’s our duty to give them the best opportunities, life skills, and love we can. As a society, it’s our duty to make sure we take care of them because as human beings they deserve dignity, respect, and quality of life.


It is NOT helpful to Downs people to be told through media like this that they not only have Downs, they’re missing out on drinking, partying, having sex with whoever they come across, and swearing like a soldier. 


Can we not dream bigger for them? Are the goals of a healthy life, with some solid, loving relationships/marriage, and enjoying living semi-independently in a community not enough of a challenge? Why would we tell them that  the life of a college frat-boy is something to aspire to?


Our son and daughter both paint pictures that are good enough to frame and hang on a wall. They work in a store, and volunteer with Meals on Wheels and the Humane Society. They have friends and sing karaoke and think birthday parties and Christmas are the best things in life. They enjoy going to the movies, bowling, and church. They look forward to each day and have taught us more about pure love than we’d ever have learned on our own.


The National Down Syndrome Society needs to take a step back and figure out how to advocate for healthy goals for Downs people. They missed the mark with this video. They missed it by MILES. They should be ashamed of portraying Downs people as only being able to aspire to a negative lifestyle.


Let’s ASSUME THAT THEY CAN hold jobs, volunteer, have fun with sports, play games, have friends, maybe have a boyfriend/girlfriend, and grow old with dignity. And let’s NOT project onto them the worst habits of society which would endanger them, abuse them, and break their beautiful and gentle spirits.


What did YOU think of the video? Hit me up in the comments and let’s discuss it!