Information Officer II
Ministry of Health and Social Development
Telephone: 468-3701 ext. 4138/2282
The British Virgin Islands will for the first time join in observance of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 under the theme, ‘Lots of Socks’.
Down Syndrome is a genetic condition where a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21. This condition leads to mild or severe impairment and physical abnormalities including short stature and a broad facial profile.
Supervisor of Disability Services, Ms. Lorna Dawson explained that in more recent years, the views are changing towards persons with Down Syndrome. Persons with Down Syndrome are no longer being left hidden away at home but they are being included in all the various activities that other children are involved in. The earlier the intervention, the more likely the child is able to participate more fully in everyday activities with his or her peers.
Ms. Dawson said, “Initially when we started at the Autism Centre, our mandate was for Autism, but what we were finding as we went particularly into pre-schools for referrals for autism… [there were children] who had other developmental delays and we began working with these children. We now [focus] on early intervention, so regardless of whether [a child] has autism or not, once there are developmental delays, we try to provide services.”
Presently, the Autism Centre provides services to two clients with Down Syndrome and BVI Services, which is the adult day programme for persons with disabilities, provides services to five persons with Down Syndrome.
Ms. Dawson encouraged residents to be more accepting of persons who may be different saying, “Just because someone has a disability, you don’t look down on them or treat them any less. You [can] include them in activities in society even in the workforce.”
Ms. Dawson said that BVI Services is grooming clients for employment and encouraging businesses to give them a chance. She highlighted that persons with Down Syndrome are very affectionate in nature and so fields that deal with caring for persons or assisting, such as pre-schools or caring for the elderly, are ideal for them to work in.
“We actually have a young lady with Down Syndrome, who volunteers two mornings a week at one of the pre-schools. She is really business-like, knows what she wants to do and has the potential [to succeed] so we have her working alongside our therapists to groom her for full time employment”, Ms. Dawson stated.
On March 21, persons are encouraged to wear and be creative with their socks in observance of World Down Syndrome Day. Ms. Dawson explained that the idea of wearing the socks is to be a conversation piece to advocate for more services and policies in place to improve the lives of persons with Down Syndrome. Cynthie Martin’s Variety store near the Sunday Morning Well in Tortola will offer a discount to persons who purchase socks for World Down Syndrome Day. Pretty socks can also be purchased at other stores in Road Town.
For more on the conversation with Ms. Lorna Dawson, persons are asked to tune in on Thursday, March 16 on ZBVI 780 AM station at 6:35 p.m. and on ZCCR 94.1 FM station at 7:30 p.m. to hear more about Down Syndrome and World Down Syndrome Day on March 21.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development aspires to provide a caring and integrated system of health and social services that facilitates human development and improves the quality of life in the Virgin Islands.