October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a chance to celebrate the abilities, hopes, and accomplishments of those with Down syndrome. It is a time to recognize the many ways individuals with Down syndrome enrich the lives of those around them and contribute positively to society.
This month is also a moment to acknowledge that as a society, we have a long way to go in becoming fully inclusive to these neighbors, colleagues, friends, and family members. Though Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal disorder – every year about 6,000 babies are born with it – most of our social systems are not built with these individuals in mind. For example, records show that average medical care costs were 12 times higher for children ages 0-4 with Down syndrome compared to children of the same age without Down syndrome. Other studies show that 81% of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) such as Down syndrome do not have a paid job in the community. Those that do are often paid less and work for fewer hours. In these and other areas, we have far to go in creating opportunities for flourishing for those with Down syndrome.
At the Murdock Trust, we are lucky to have a front-row seat to some of the important progress being made toward greater inclusivity. In that spirit, we also want to honor some of the many organizations in the Pacific Northwest that are actively working to make our region more inclusive for those of all abilities. Here are just a few of them:
- In Portland, OR, Every Body Athletics’ mission is to make lasting impact on the physical, social, and emotional wellbeing of adults with IDD through inclusive group exercise. This organization serves adults who have aged out of special education and, as a result, lack the regular social interaction and movement that came with their school schedule. To fill this gap, Every Body Athletics hosts one-hour classes with volunteers that focus on building participants’ physical and social strength.
- Knowing that community is essential to flourishing for every individual, L’Arche Greater Vancouver is an intentional community where adults with developmental disabilities, along with those who assist them, share life together in family-like settings and work environments. As a faith-based community, spirituality is key to their mission. This is a part of life that is often overlooked for those with IDD, but at L’Arche, every individual’s spiritual needs are given the chance to develop and flourish.
- Nearly 1800 individuals in the region benefit every year from the work of the Down Syndrome Community of Puget Sound (DSC). Through programs, education, and events, DSC supports those with Down syndrome and their families as they navigate their unique joys, challenges, questions, and celebrations. As the only organization in the Puget Sound region focused exclusively on serving people with Down syndrome and their families, DSC is uniquely equipped to empower those they serve while fostering community engagement and inclusivity.
- Best Buddies International (BBI) is a global nonprofit dedicated to ending the social, physical, and economic isolation of the 200 million people with IDD. BBI offers programs that help those with IDD form meaningful relationships with peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking and communication skills, and more. For example, through the Best Buddies Friendship Program, one-to-one friendships between people with and without IDD enrich the lives of both friends.
- Under the big sky of Bozeman, MT, Eagle Mount celebrates abilities through inclusive recreation for those with disabilities and those suffering from cancer. From horseback riding to swimming to camping to skiing, Eagle Mount offers activities that foster freedom, joy, strength, connection, and confidence for participants. And by including those with disabilities in Bozeman’s significant recreational offerings, Eagle Mount is opening doors for a more inclusive community. Read one participant’s story and watch an impactful video here.
These organizations and the incredible participants they serve are giving us hope as we reflect this Down Syndrome Awareness Month. We know that while there is significant progress to be made, it is work worth doing a thousand times over. And it is work that the Murdock Trust is honored to support, witness, and celebrate.
For the sake of a world where all abilities are celebrated and all individuals valued fully for who they are, may this good work continue!