The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

People wear #lotsofsocks for World Down Syndrome Day

Joanna Demarco Tuesday, 21 March 2017, 09:20 Last update: about 4 years ago

Mismatching or eye-catching socks are today being worn all around the world to raise awareness about inclusion with reference to people with Down Syndrome. World Down Syndrome Day, which falls annually on 21 March, is this year celebrating with the campaign titled '#lotsofsocks'.

"Wearing different socks highlights diversity and creates awareness, stating that even though people may be different, we have to accept everyone the way they are," Michelle Spiteri, President of Malta's Down Syndrome Association, and mother to a young daughter with Down Syndrome, told The Malta Independent.

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According to Ms Spiteri, approximately 1 in every 800 people in Malta has Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder where the individual is born with an extra chromosome.

Started off by Down Syndrome International, and kicking off throughout social media platforms with the hashtag '#lotsofsocks', the aim of the campaign is to get people talking. "It is easy to do, wherever you are, just wear socks which people will ask you about." Instructions on the organisation's website state "we ask you to join us wearing something which people will ask you about, so you can tell them all about World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD)."

When asked about what could be done to improve the lives of people with Down Syndrome in Malta, Ms Spiteri said that, "a lot is being done for people with Down Syndrome at the moment. There is much more awareness and opportunities for people with Down Syndrome nowadays and the presence of people with Down Syndrome in the workplace has increased... [however], what we could do with is more recreational spaces for people with Down Syndrome. There are no places for them to meet when they grow up.  It is very difficult for them when they grow up. At the moment parents organize meet-ups for their children with Down Syndrome, but it would be nice if there is a place, like a youth centre where they can go."That is the one thing that's missing," she adds.

She mentions how, on an international level, a lot of people with Down Syndrome are obtaining many opportunities unlike before, such as Melanie Segard, the 21-year-old French woman with Down Syndrome, who fulfilled her lifelong ambition last week and presented the weather forecast on national television. After presenting the news, Ms Segard tweeted "I am different, but I can do lots of things." Ms Spiteri also mentioned Madeline Stuart as an example of inclusion, an Australian model with Down Syndrome, who launched her own fashion line in February 2017, with the title '21 Reasons Why by Madeline Stuart'. 

Both workplaces and schools around Malta are promoting the #lotsofsocks campaign amongst their students and staff, asking them to wear mismatching and eye-catching socks to school for that specific day.

Audrey Fenech Adami, Senior Middle Leader of early years at Chiswick House School, who took care of the campaign at the school, said that these events were important  as you are "giving knowledge to all children, taking away any ambiguity or fear which may be present or that students feel towards children with down syndrome." The school currently has two Down Syndrome students, therefore increasing the importance of the event.



What can the public do to participate in #lotsofsocks day? "They can go to school and work with mismatching socks so people will ask them why they are wearing different socks  and they can answer that it is World Down Syndrome Day, and raise awareness about the inclusion of people with Down Syndrome," Ms Spiteri concluded.

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