March 21 was designated as World Down Syndrome Day by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 19, 2011. Exactly one week later, on Dec. 26, my husband and I welcomed Madilyn into our family. After her birth, we were surprised to receive her Down Syndrome diagnosis. World Down Syndrome Day is now a cherished event in our house; we celebrate Madilyn and raise awareness about the values of diversity and inclusion.

Down Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder which occurs randomly, across all ethnic groups. In the United States, the frequency is about one in 700 births. It is typical for human cells to contain 26 chromosomes (13 pairs: one from the mother, one from the father). A person with Down Syndrome develops with an extra, third copy of the 21st chromosome, thus the significance of 3/21 as the date for World Down Syndrome Day. The third chromosome can affect development and influence physical and intellectual skills.

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Kathleen Klapatauskas is a mother of four, physical therapist and writer. She currently serves on the Miracle League of Dubuque Board of Directors.

(1) comment

Ellen Fliehler

Community inclusion of people with disabilities are so important to families. My uncle Jack, also born with Down Syndrome in the 1930's, was sent to Woodward State Hospital as a young child. It wasn't until the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1970's that he returned to his home county. Closer, but still not home. My grandmother told me years later that it broke her heart to send him so far away but she had no support or services to help in her community and felt she had no other choice. Today, we have education and supports for families to keep their children home. Dubuque is fortunate to have several agencies that provide supportive services. But with cutbacks we are seeing today in education, healthcare, and other supportive services, we must remain vigilant that we continue to have those supports for families and the child as they grow toward adulthood and independence. World Down Syndrome Day!

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