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Mar 21, 2023

World Down Syndrome Day Observed with Mismatched Socks to Reflect Appearance of Chromosomes

Today was observed as World Down Syndrome Day with the theme “With Us Not For Us” to honour the people who have more challenges and disabilities in life. It was set aside some years ago by UNICEF to honour their right to fair treatment and equal opportunities to improve their lives. Today the message was no different. In fact, the date is significant as were the brightly-coloured mismatched socks that people wore, which resemble the three copies of the twenty-first chromosome that people with Down syndrome have. We stopped by Stella Maris School and the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Unit right across on Freetown Road to find out how the day went for the children at these institutions. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.


Marion Ali, Reporting

Down syndrome is defined as genetic occurrence that results in an extra copy of chromosome twenty-one. And as a show of support to those people and the challenges the face with daily routines, today people who have those challenges, their teachers, relatives and friends wore bright, mismatched socks which actually look like the D.S chromosome. Over at Stella Maris, everyone took to the idea in a fun kind of way.


Sheree Salgado

Sheree Salgado, Teacher, Stella Maris School

“We just bring them out and we have probably the school do a round of applause for them, and most of them are wearing their socks today, not only students with Down Syndrome, but also other students, most of them here, then. Some of them forgot about the day.”


Teacher, Sheree Salgado says there is a hidden message to the socks as well.


Sheree Salgado

“I just the awareness wearing the socks today is just showing that everybody is accepted, you know, even if it’s different, if it’s something mismatching, we are still a part; we’re still humans. So I guess that’s the message behind wearing our socks today.”

The Ministry of Education’s Special Education Unit on Freetown Road, works closely with children who have physical or cognitive challenges. Christie Almeida who heads that unit told us that they’re having a week of fun activities.


Christie Almeida

Christie Almeida, Special Education Program Coordinator, MoECST

“I don’t know if you’ve seen this story, When Downs Is Up. We launched it in honor of World Down Syndrome Day and we’re focusing on three kids with Down syndrome, actually young adults, so I’d encourage everyone to go see that. So that just has me really happy today because we are focusing on the positives. And some other positives that are happening at Special Ed right now is all our officers are attending a training. We have a professional who has worked with the visually impaired and the deaf for years has a specific curriculum and whatever, and we keep trying to build their officer’s capacity. They all have masters in Special Ed. They’re all really strong officers, but they can always learn more, so we have them here. We have some participants from B.C.V.I. and Mr. Cowo from the Inspiration Center. We invited them to take part. So they’re doing that today.”


Almeida explained that in an effort to build the students’ capacity, there is a new curriculum that has been introduced in several schools this year.


Christie Almeida

“We are really focusing on the Essential for Living curriculum. We started that this year and we’ve had some pilot schools. Stella Maris is one pilot school, Ranchito Special Classroom in Corozal, Holy Ghost in Dangriga, United Evergreen and Garden City in Belmopan, Julian Cho in PG, so across the country we’ve selected a couple schools to pilot this, and this is, again, very individualized. So every student will be screened and depending on where they are, that will help develop exactly where we’re working for independent living, for a job if they can. So some of these kids might not be able to speak or be potty trained, so they will start with these really must have skills, et cetera. Some of the kids might be a better academically and whatever, and then so they will work on these skills that’s broken down.”


Special Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Shantel Yearwood explained how the unit and the fifteen education officers who work there, monitor the teacher-student interaction in the classroom.


Shantel Yearwood

Shantel Yearwood, Special Education Officer, MoECST

“All of us are assigned to classrooms and we have schools assigned. In the case of Stella Maris, I am assigned two classroom. In my classroom – one classroom in particular, I have students with profound disabilities. There are a mix of disabilities in my classrooms that I have, I have students with autism, students who are visually impaired, students with intellectual impairment, students with Down Syndrome. We’ve been working a lot on I.E.Ps. We’ve just started that. Teachers are being immersed in working with I.E.Ps, understanding what an I.E.P is, which is an Individual Education Plan. What that means is that each student has particular goals, long-term goals, short-term goals, and the teachers get them to progress towards those goals.”


Whatever physical or life skills goals the students have individually, they will learn inside the classroom. And the fun a day like today offers, giving everyone the chance to wear big, colourful, mismatched socks is a welcomed event each time this year. But on a serious note, a lot of these children endure abuses that their physical and cognitive challenges might make difficult for them to explain. But there are signs that these teachers look for.


Sheree Salgado

“In each class we have our morning sessions whereby we know our students. We know if they’re happy, we know if something is bothering them. Usually some of us will start our morning talking about their emotions and if a vigilant teacher, you will notice that something is wrong with that child. So we’ll probably pull that child, we have a whole class discussion and just monitor that child for the week or for the day. If we notice that there is no change in that child, then we pull them. We have our counselor here, we that child, we question because we know that something is behind their sadness or their emotions. And we do what we have to do to help our students in that capacity.”


Marion Ali

“Is there ever a time you need to call in on Human Development?”


Sheree Salgado

“Yes, we do. We do, and they’re always helpful. They will come whenever we call them, and they will take it over if something that is beyond the principal or the teacher’s control.”

Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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