Parents who have just found out that their child has Down syndrome face a number of distressing questions.
Could my child suffer from additional health problems as a result of Down syndrome?
How does a child with Down syndrome affect the family?
Will my child be able to work and support themselves into adulthood?
The Canadian Down Syndrome Society compiled these and other commonly Googled questions about Down syndrome and is answering them through a YouTube campaign starring 10 Canadians living with the genetic disorder.
The series includes over 40 videos, each featuring a child or adult with Down syndrome answering a question about the challenges of living with the developmental disability, as well as some of the unexpected joys and possibilities.
The organization’s awareness leader Paul Sawka, who has Down syndrome himself, told Global News that the videos were intended to help people living with Down syndrome “talk for themselves.”
“The videos let people with Down syndrome talk and tell the world everything a person with Down syndrome can do,” he said. “I hope that these videos will help new parents when they find out their baby has Down syndrome and they are feeling scared.”
The society’s resource coordinator, Carlee Reardon, said Sawka and others with Down syndrome are regularly underestimated.
“Paul regularly has stories of people not thinking that he has the skills that he does, and that’s really frustrating for him,” she said. “I imagine the circumstances are the same for everyone in the videos, so the opportunity for them to tell people what they can do is really important to them.”
So, can people with Down syndrome play sports?
“Yes, they can. I like playing hockey,” 23-year-old Travis, who works as an assistant host at Lone Star Texas Grill, said. “When your heart really touches hockey, it really feels like your life… you like playing it. You like doing it every single day.”
But can people with Down syndrome learn to read?
“Of course they do, silly!” eight-year-old Caleigh exclaimed in her video. “I’ve read since I was five years old,” she added, holding up five fingers before proceeding to read out loud from a book from the popular Bad Kitty children’s series.
The take-home message of the campaign appears to be that while people with Down syndrome undeniably face challenges, they can still lead a vibrant and fulfilling life.
“Since these videos have been released, we’ve heard parents say ‘I wish I had these videos to look at when I found out that my child had Down syndrome, and maybe I would’ve been more hopeful and would’ve grieved less,'” Reardon said.
“We’re really trying to portray to parents that there is hope, there is a future and there are wonderful things to come.”