ABLE celebrates International Down Syndrome Day

National 2 minutes, 37 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

DESPITE many Down syndrome awareness campaigns being held in the sultanate, people with Down syndrome still often experience negative attitudes from the public, said Brunei Down’s Syndrome Association (ABLE) president.

Speaking to The Brunei Times recently, Ustazah Siti Zaliha Hj Abdul Salim who is also a mother of a child with the disorder said just like every body else, people with Down syndrome - a common genetic disorder as a result of an extra chromosome - just want to be accepted and treated equally.

Individuals with Down syndrome are often thought as handicapped and are not able of contributing to the society. “Some think that Down syndrome is a disease and closely linked to having low IQ and to be people of low quality,” said the ABLE president, adding that some even perceive people with the condition as ‘unhealthy’.

However, this is not the case, she added,

This year, to honour the International Observance Day, ABLE in collaboration with Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) students yesterday held an ‘I AM ABLE’ event at the Institute Health Science building at UBD.

The event carried the theme of ‘CAN I’. Celebrated annually on March 21st, World Down Syndrome day this year is themed – “My Friends, My Community”.

The ABLE president said the event aims to create awareness amongst Bruneians and to show that individuals with down syndrome are too, also capable of amazing things just like any other people with dreams and goals.

“Our children are the leaders of tomorrow and children with Down syndrome are no exception,” she said, adding that this year’s theme goes in line with the association’s vision of encouraging the community towards always ensuring people with Down syndrome are able to get equal rights. Health experts from the Children Development Centre (CDC) under the Ministry of Health agreed with Ustazah Siti Zaliha, noting that this year’s theme focuses providing equal rights to people with Down syndrome.

“When a child has special needs, they are not segregated or ostracised. They have equal rights to participate to their fullest potential, in their community.”

The best way to show support people with Down syndrome is to be aware of what it is, and how it affects the individual’s life.

“Recognising why these children (and other children with special needs) are different is important to be able to support them fully,” said the expert from CDC.

According to CDC, so far no cases of Down syndrome born in 2016 were reported but noted that there were nine cases in 2015.

Currently there are 323 registered individuals with the disorder at the CDC, including 160 males and 163 females.

In 2015, 294 children were registered with CDC, 158 are boys and 136 girls.

CDC said there are a lot of assumptions surrounding individuals with special needs, and these assumptions result in negative stereotypes which create communities of fear, prejudice and ignorance. Therefore, CDC said it is important to have a fully accepting community that nurtures friendships and support. “This is very empowering for an individual with Down’s syndrome, and fills them with the hope that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to.”

The Brunei Times