Approximately 3000 to 5000 children every year are born with Down syndrome, which is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of an extra partial or full copy of the 21st chromosome. According to the United Nations, Down syndrome has always been a part of the human condition and commonly results in variable effects on learning styles, physical characteristics and health.

World Down Syndrome Day is an opportunity to raise public awareness on the rights, well-being and the need for inclusion of persons with Down syndrome. This year’s theme, “We Decide”, recognises the need for people with Down syndrome to have full participation in decision-making about their personal lives.

Persons with Down syndrome need the involvement and support of their caregivers but should also be encouraged to exercise as much independence and autonomy as is practicable. Once afforded the appropriate training, medical care and guidance, those with Down syndrome can make valuable contributions to their family, community and society.

Local awareness and understanding of Down syndrome have increased over the years, thanks in no small part to the advocacy of organisations such as the Down Syndrome Family Network. However, much work remains to be done; society must endeavour to eliminate all forms of discrimination against people with Down syndrome and equip them with the skills and confidence they need to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Today, as we join the international community in donning colourful mismatched socks in recognition of World Down Syndrome Day, let us resolve to respect the independence of people with Down syndrome and make our society conducive to their development and empowerment.

Mindful of the social distancing so necessary to Flatten the Coronavirus Curve, Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes, O.R.T.T., President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, nevertheless was adamant that the OTP show its support for Down syndrome awareness. Below, Her Excellency and members of OTP staff, with the specified ‘social distance’ between them, display their colourful, mismatched socks.