Third-graders to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day

Mar. 20—NEWBURYPORT — A Grade 3 class at Francis T. Bresnahan Elementary School will honor one of their peers Monday and wear mismatched and silly socks in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day.

Officially observed by the United Nations since 2012, the global awareness day falls on the 21st day of the third month, signifying the uniqueness of the triplication of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome, according to the World Down Syndrome Day website.

Teacher Susan Westgate said this is the first time that World Down Syndrome Day will be celebrated at the school, at least to her knowledge.

A boy in her class, Tate Beaulier, has Down syndrome and she and fellow teachers Caitlin Marsh and Candice Skiba thought this could be one way to help students not only connect with their peers, but to spread awareness about the chromosomal condition.

Tate is nonverbal, but he uses an augmentative and alternative communicator to interact with people, Westgate said.

The device is a tablet on which he can type symbols and letters to formulate the words he wants to communicate, she explained.

Tate’s fellow peers are all familiar with the device and help him use it, so that he learns to communicate with them, Westgate said.

On Monday morning, a couple of friends will help Tate do the morning announcements and lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Students and teachers will also participate in the #LotsOfSocks campaign, which began in 2013 as a way to raise awareness about Down syndrome.

The idea behind the campaign is that chromosomes are shaped like socks and people with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome.

The hope is that by wearing crazy, colorful socks, others may be inclined to ask about them, prompting the person wearing them to say that they are raising awareness about Down syndrome.

Westgate has been working with special education teachers and specialists at the school to figure out how to use the celebration of World Down Syndrome Day as a way to educate students on the condition, so that they have the tools to spread awareness about it.

To learn more about World Down Syndrome Day, visit www.worlddownsyndromeday.org

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