Today is World Down Syndrome Day. Its theme “CONNECT” highlights the importance of people with Down syndrome forging and maintaining connections with one other and the world despite the constraints posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder which occurs when an individual has an extra full or partial copy of the 21st chromosome. Research has shown that persons with Down syndrome, particularly adults, are at a higher risk of serious illness after contracting Covid-19. An Oxford University study published in October last year indicated that people with Down syndrome are five times more likely to be hospitalized and ten times more likely to die than the general population, if infected with the virus. Furthermore, the Down Syndrome Family Network reports that because children with Down syndrome develop best in an environment which is highly tactile and interactive, they are disproportionately affected by the closure of schools and other Covid-19 restrictions.

Out of an abundance of caution, many people with Down syndrome have explored alternative ways of connecting with others to share their experiences, knowledge and ideas and increase public awareness and action about the condition without jeopardizing their own health. In keeping with the dictates of the new normal, the annual World Down Syndrome Day Conference was held from March 17-19 on a virtual platform, with a wealth of information made easily and readily accessible online.

In Trinidad and Tobago, organisations including the Down Syndrome Family Network work diligently, providing invaluable resources and information to persons with Down syndrome and their caregivers about managing and adapting to this era of Covid-19 and championing their acceptance and inclusion by the wider society.
According to the United Nations, Down syndrome has always been part of the human condition, with an estimated incidence of 1 in 1000 – 1 in 1100 live births worldwide. It remains our duty to ensure that persons with Down syndrome are treated with dignity and respect and afforded the support and understanding they need to lead happy, productive and connected lives, especially during these unprecedented times.

Today, as we don our colourful socks, it is up to all of us—Government, NGOs, employers and individuals—to educate ourselves about the implications, realities and possibilities of Down syndrome and make the attitudinal and concrete changes that will ensure that people with Down syndrome thrive in our ever-changing world