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Down Syndrome: Focus on Accomplishments, Not Assumptions

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021   

FARGO, N.D. - People with Down syndrome are having a bigger impact on society, and their advocates in the Dakota region say it's time for the public to take notice.

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. It's widely known that people born with this condition have an extra chromosome that affects their development, but some say there's more to it.

The New Directions Down Syndrome Association connects parents in a four-state region, including parts of North Dakota. Brandon Tilus, president of its board of directors, said he feels public perception is being outdated by the lives many with Down syndrome are carving out for themselves.

"People with Down syndrome born today have a really good chance of living a life where they're independent, that they get married, that they do all of these things that we expect all individuals to do," he said.

He credited early-intervention programs and advancements in therapy for establishing better outcomes. However, he said strong government funding still is needed to ensure more families have access to these services. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Down syndrome occurs in about one in every 700 births.

Tilus said another way to overcome any stigma is for people to make others with Down syndrome feel more at ease in their interactions. He also advises that some ways of communicating should be avoided.

"'I use my hands more to talk to them, because I'm not sure they're going to understand me.' And, those types of things - sort of, coming into an interaction with those individuals with those preconceived notions - I think can make it a little bit more difficult," he said.

Tilus, whose 6-year-old daughter was born with the condition, said the best thing to do is treat a person with Down syndrome like anybody else. All they may need is a little extra time to respond, and be given the opportunity to take the lead in a conversation, to feel comfortable.


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