Even though students are working from home as a safety precaution amidst the coronavirus outbreak, that didn’t stop them from participating in World Down Syndrome Day.
World Down Syndrome Day was celebrated on Saturday, March 21. Samantha Pavano, a member of Down Syndrome Association of Connecticut and a mother of a child with Down syndrome, had planned to attend South End Elementary School on Friday like she always does each year. Unfortunately, she had to rethink her plans this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Every year, I visit the school and talk to children about Down syndrome, and how their friends with Down syndrome are more like them than they are different,” said Pavano. “We have an open conversation that breaks down the barriers and misconceptions.”
In addition, students are encouraged to “Rock Our Socks,” by wearing funky colored socks to show their support and unity on World Down Syndrome Day.
“When you look at a genetic map, the chromosomes somewhat resemble colored socks,” said Pavano, “so that’s the idea behind it. Nationwide, we ask people to wear their funky, crazy-colored socks and have some fun, and spread the word about Down syndrome.”
People with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes—one additional to someone without Down syndrome.
“On Worldwide Down Syndrome Day, we celebrate every child who is a little bit different,” said Pavano. “In that, we learn that we are more alike than different. You like swimming? So does a child with Down syndrome. You like music and art? So does a child with Down syndrome. The goal is to break down the barriers.”
Pavano said children don’t always understand why a child may be different from them, and they may act with fear. Her goal in visiting the school is to teach students about Down syndrome and why students should not be afraid of their friends with Down syndrome.
While Pavano could not visit the school as planned, there may be a follow-up event planned later on. In the meantime, South End Elementary principal Erin Nattrass encourages students to send in their pictures of them rocking their socks on Friday.
“Unfortunately, this year we have had to take a different approach since we are not physically in school. I’ve asked that members of the South End School Community share photos of them ‘Rocking their Socks’ so that I can share them all on my ‘Week in a Peek’ update that is sent electronically,” said Nattrass. “As I said to my families in my email, I am so sad to be missing this day in person, but we can still celebrate as a school community.”
Nattrass said the school motto is “A Small School with a Big Heart.”
“This is just one fantastic way our community can show their support,” she said.
Pavano said the school community has always been “amazing and always receptive” when it comes to spreading awareness about Down syndrome, and providing an education for her child that has allowed him to exceed expectations.
“We are so proud of him, and proud of our school system,” said Pavano. “Here in the Southington Public Schools, there is no doubt that they treat Caleb with the mindset that ‘he can.’ They hold him to a very high standard.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at News@SouthingtonObserver.com.