The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

Disability is Not a Dirty Word

Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day
Photo by Danielle Meehan
Be sure to show your support for World Down Syndrome Day. Image courtesy of Ms. Meehan via Canva

 Every year, about 1 in 700 babies is diagnosed with Down syndrome, making it the most common chromosomal disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In light of World Down Syndrome Day this Thursday, March 21st, 2024, it’s important to recognize the importance of spreading awareness and celebrating as a community.  

World Down Syndrome Day is the day that the world promotes inclusion and advocates for the rights, celebration, and well-being of people with Down syndrome. World Down Syndrome Day has been observed by the United Nations since 2012, making this year the twelfth year of its commemoration. The theme for World Down Syndrome Day 2024 is “End the Stereotypes.”  

This is Pat-Med’s second year celebrating World Down Syndrome Day as a high school. With the help of Buddies Club, the Raider Bean, students, and faculty, this year’s celebration has truly become a team effort.  

Danielle Meehan, a speech-language pathologist at PMHS and co-advisor of the Buddies Club, said, “This is our first year really pushing for a charity. Whereas last year we tried to bring awareness, this year is more financial and awareness-focused.”  

This year, PMHS will be fundraising on behalf of two charities, John’s Crazy Socks and Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, two nationally recognized organizations based on Long Island.

The Raider Bean, Pat-Med’s favorite stop for cookies and hot drinks, is a student-run business that is a part of the Academics, Career, and Essential Skills (ACES) Specialized Program.  

“We started Crazy Sock Day last year, and we made ribbons for the teachers, and we’re doing it again this year. This year, the Raider Bean has graciously donated the proceeds for the day to Brittany’s Baskets of Hope,” Meehan said.  

Brittany’s Baskets of Hope was founded by Brittany Schiavone, a Walt Whitman High School alumna. She started making baskets for parents who are expecting or have recently welcomed a baby with Down syndrome into their lives. Schiavone recognized that when a parent is told their baby is diagnosed with Down syndrome, they are often told, “I’m sorry.”  

Unfortunately, this reaction is common in society. According to a study from the National Society of Genetic Counselors, 57% of parents experience pitying remarks after telling someone their child has Down syndrome.  

“She [Brittany] didn’t want that narrative, so she created a charity where they bring baskets or send baskets all over the world to parents who get the new diagnosis to celebrate their babies,” said Ashley Barrett, an ENL teacher at PMHS whose daughter has Down syndrome.  

“She was the first person I met with Down syndrome when I got my diagnosis and then brought my basket to me and my daughter,” she recalls. “It was a special moment.”  

On Long Island, Schiavone personally brings the baskets filled with toys, books, and items that are ‘typical’ baby presents to the family, congratulating and hanging out with them.  

Brittany’s Baskets of Hope isn’t the only organization Pat-Med will be spreading awareness for, but along with hundreds of schools across Long Island, our school will be working with John’s Crazy Socks. John Cronin, a Huntington High School alum, started his business with his dad, Mark Cronin.  

Nicole Dougherty, a teaching assistant for ACES students and co-advisor of the Buddies Club, mentioned, “When he [John] graduated high school, his family was looking for an opportunity for him to work and contribute to society or the community, and they opened a sock business where he also delivers locally.”  

“His business is a huge success; George W. Bush has his socks as many other presidents, he went to the White House, he goes around the community, and all the proceeds he raises, 10% goes to the Special Olympics, which he is a part of,” said Barrett.  

Additionally, each year, a person with Down syndrome who has submitted a sock design may have their design chosen as Sock of the Year. Similar to last year’s World Down Syndrome Day celebration, students and faculty will be encouraged and welcome to wear their craziest pair of socks.  

However, the festivities don’t end on March 21st. With this year’s theme being “End the Stereotypes,” it’s important to make every day an opportunity to help end the stigma associated with Down syndrome.  

Groups such as the Buddies Club are one of the many ways to foster inclusion and acceptance and help “change the narrative” in school. Buddies Club meets on Wednesdays once or twice a month in Room 122, and anyone is welcome to join!  

“I think it’s beneficial for both sides of Buddies Club. The kids love having familiar faces in the hallway, and the kids really do love hanging out with them,” said Dougherty.  

While recognizing World Down Syndrome Day is one step in the right direction, there is still much more to do. Pat-Med is just one of the thousands of schools globally that are pushing to create an inclusive environment.  

“I think it’s a work in progress,” said Barrett, “but it’s also awesome that we can talk about it as a school because ‘disability’ is not a dirty word. I’m so excited this year that we’re doing more.” 

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Ceania Gonzales, Editor in Chief

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  • J

    Jeraly TejadaMar 21, 2024 at 6:34 am

    What a wonderful way to spread awareness!

  • J

    Jeraly TejadaMar 20, 2024 at 7:25 pm

    Such an amazing way to spread awareness!

  • A

    Alyssa RichardMar 20, 2024 at 7:06 pm

    I love that our school is putting in the effort to show love and support to our down syndrome community especially within our schools aces program for all needs !! I love being with all of the students in the program , hanging out with them in my gym class + working with them in early childhood cte with ms perez , meeting them has made such a huge impact in my life and has reminded me why I want to be a special education teacher

  • A

    Ashlee BarrettMar 18, 2024 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you for helping us tell the story! <3