October marks Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and with over 13,000 Australians living with the condition, HenderCare has recently forged a philanthropic partnership with Down Syndrome Australia to help support advocacy networks for those living with Down syndrome.
A genetic condition identified by an extra chromosome in the body, Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition and occurs in all cultures at around the same rate and causes developmental delays and learning difficulties.
HenderCare spoke with the CEO of Down Syndrome Australia, Dr Ellen Skladzien to ask about the work undertaken by Down Syndrome Australia and how they hope to create a more inclusive environment for those living with the condition.
“Our purpose is to influence social and policy change, provide a national profile and voice for people living with Down syndrome, and to build resources and knowledge capacity of the state and territory Down syndrome associations.
Our vision is an Australia where people living with Down syndrome are valued, reach their potential and enjoy social and economic inclusion.”
Down Syndrome Australia provides a number of resources including helpful booklets, case studies, blog posts, articles and many other resources. These resources are downloaded on average 1,000 times a month, with the most downloaded focused on prenatal support and information about education and employment.
In addition to these resources and supports, in recent years Down Syndrome Australia has established the Down Syndrome Advisory Network (DSAN) with the support of the Sherry-Hogan Foundation. DSAN is a group consisting of people with Down syndrome from each state and territory who provide their input into the advocacy work of the organisation.
“The group works to speak out and raise awareness about Down syndrome in their local communities – including giving talks to medical students, being part of awareness campaigns, and talking at schools. The DSAN has fundamentally changed and improved the way Down Syndrome Australia works” Dr Skladzien states.
It is through the DSAN that HenderCare’s recent philanthropic partnership will provide the most benefit, with Down Syndrome Australia requiring funding to assist in supporting the work of the network including covering the costs of national meetings.
Dr Skladzien emphasised how crucial it is that those with Down syndrome are included and valued in their communities and in society as a whole.
“There continues to be a significant stigma associated with intellectual disability in Australia. It is incredibly important to share how people with Down syndrome are contributing to their communities in lots of different ways. We hope that in future the stigma and discrimination against people with intellectual disability will be eliminated.”
If you wish to make a donation to help support the work undertaken by Down Syndrome Australia, please visit their webpage at https://www.downsyndrome.org.au/support_us.html
Or, to find out more about the Down Syndrome Advisory Network, please head to https://www.downsyndrome.org.au/Down_Syndrome_Advisory_Network.html.