Down Syndrome awareness month highlights need for understanding

INDIVIDUALS: Jessika, Jason, Jordyn and Ethan may all have Down Syndrome but they are all unique.
INDIVIDUALS: Jessika, Jason, Jordyn and Ethan may all have Down Syndrome but they are all unique.

October is Down Syndrome awareness month, celebrating people with Down Syndrome for their abilities, not their disabilities.

Some local families who have been touched by Down Syndrome decided this was a great chance to raise awareness about the condition and the stigma surrounding it.

Down Syndrome is the most common chromosome disorder that has been discovered and occurs at conception across all ethnic and social groups, to parents of all ages.

People with Down Syndrome are born with 47 chromosomes in their cells rather than the standard 46, the extra being an additional chromosome 21, which is why Down Syndrome is also known as Trisomy 21.

Features of Down Syndrome may include characteristic physical features, health and development challenges and/or some level of intellectual disability.

But this does not make each person with Down Syndrome the same, with the families saying they are unique, with their own talents, abilities, thoughts and interests.

Jason Rasmussen, 25, who lives in Cessnock, volunteers at Richmond Vale Railway Station and for a recycling program, likes tenpin bowling, horse-riding, yoga and loves the Newcastle Knights.

Jessika Threlfo, 19, lives in Sawyers Gully, volunteers for Hunter Prelude and likes dancing, shopping and art.

Jordyn Threlfo, 22, also lives in Sawyers Gully and does jobs around Cessnock, Kurri and Maitland such as cleaning, deliveries and mail runs and likes cricket and Nitro Circus.

Ethan Herbert, 15, from Heddon Greta, is in year nine at Kurri High School and enjoys listening to music, basketball and superheroes.

Another common misconception is that people with Down Syndrome are always happy and affectionate.

“They have their moments like everyone else,” Jordan and Jessica’s mother Dee said.

“They get happy, sad, embarrassed, frustrated, thoughtful and fall in and out of love, just as we all do,” Jason’s mum Suzanne said.

People with Down Syndrome also do not all look like each other, and in fact tend to look more like people in their own family than others with Down Syndrome.

While there are some physical features associated, there is a large variation in how many of these features one may have or the prominence of them.

But the most important thing is that people with Down Syndrome are just that, people.

“Human rights activists, restaurant owners, catwalk models, musicians, actors, artists, athletes, dancers, local business owners, valued volunteers, cherished friends, are other names for people who also have Down Syndrome,” Suzanne said.

For more information about Down Syndrome, visit www.downsyndromensw.org.au.

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