Call to support those with Down syndrome

Society must work together to better integrate them into community, says Edwin Tong

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong drawing on a kite with Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) beneficiary Nur Alyssa Azli, 11, at the association's World Down Syndrome Day event at the DSA Centre at Junction 8 Office Tower yesterd
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong drawing on a kite with Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) beneficiary Nur Alyssa Azli, 11, at the association's World Down Syndrome Day event at the DSA Centre at Junction 8 Office Tower yesterday. With them is the association's chairman, Mr Ratnasabapathy Sivanandam. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Society needs to band together to better integrate people with Down syndrome into the wider community, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said yesterday.

"Our persons with Down syndrome need our active participation to make Singapore a safe and supportive home for them," said Mr Tong, who is also Second Minister for Law, at Down Syndrome Association (Singapore)'s (DSA) celebration of World Down Syndrome Day.

For example, Singaporeans can share their experiences and knowledge about Down syndrome to help others better understand the genetic condition and the challenges that people with Down syndrome face, he said.

We can also support the education and training of people with Down syndrome to create more opportunities to nurture their abilities, he added.

One in 800 people worldwide has Down syndrome, which results from a person having three copies of chromosome 21.

World Down Syndrome Day is therefore celebrated globally on March 21 every year. It has been celebrated in Singapore since 2006 and officially observed by the United Nations from 2012.

The 16th edition of DSA's event was held in a largely virtual format due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with some activities live-streamed from the DSA Centre at Junction 8 Office Tower.

Mr Tong said Singapore has taken significant steps to recognise and celebrate people with Down syndrome in the community.

In 2007, it launched a national plan that aims to engage people with disabilities and enhance their quality of life through integration and inclusion.

Singapore is now in its third instalment of the Enabling Masterplan, a five-year road map that Mr Tong said will take the country further in its journey towards being more caring and inclusive.

"This calls for support and action from the community at large, including employers, community organisations, as well as persons with disabilities and their caregivers."

DSA chairman Ratnasabapathy Sivanandam said one of the biggest misconceptions worldwide is that people with special needs are generally totally dependent on others.

"Our community has become more inclusive in accepting persons with special needs and this has spurred many of our members with Down syndrome to develop their skill sets and independence to achieve their maximum potential," he said. "However, much work remains to be done, especially in getting our society to eliminate all forms of prejudices against persons with special needs."

The association, which marks its 25th anniversary this year, has helped more than 800 beneficiaries through its programmes and services in the past year.

The celebration yesterday featured pre-recorded performances of DSA members playing instruments, singing, dancing and taking part in a zumba workout.

It also spotlighted Rock Your Socks, a campaign in which participants can raise awareness of Down syndrome by wearing a pair of colourful or mismatched socks, which resemble the shape of chromosomes.

DSA will sell socks designed by its beneficiaries to fund its initiatives.

The association is also selling do-it-yourself (DIY) kite kits to raise funds and awareness under its Soar High campaign.

Tanglin Mall is a partner for both campaigns and, until March 31, shoppers can receive rewards when they wear colourful or mismatched socks. They can also redeem a DSA DIY Kite Kit at the mall until the end of this month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2021, with the headline 'Call to support those with Down syndrome'. Subscribe