CHILDREN donned their best and brightest socks to celebrate an international awareness day.
Harry Craft, who is three, has Downs Syndrome – which is caused by an extra copy of the 21st chromosome.
He celebrated in style alongside his friends as Fishbourne Pre-School to mark World Down’s Syndrome Day on Friday.
The pre-school is helping to raise money for the Chichester Downs Syndrome Support Group – which is essential for funding speech therapy, special equipment and providing support for families.
“It’s a designer gene,” said Jessica Craft, Harry’s mother, who is secretary of the Chichester support group.
“The day is to help raise awareness of what Down’s Syndrome is, what it means to have Down’s Syndrome and how people with Down’s Syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities,” said Jessica.
“Lots of socks – odd socks and bright socks – to represent inclusion and wellbeing of people with Down’s Syndrome.”
Jessica and her fiancé Danny said they just wanted people to know the condition was not something to be scared about.
“Danny and I didn’t know Harry had Down’s Syndrome until he was born,” said Jessica. “We embraced him, he has taught us to appreciate every little thing and made us stronger as people.
“He has enriched our lives. Harry is like any other little boy, he enjoys pre-school and is looking forward to starting at Parklands Primary School in September.
“He enjoys climbing, reading books, going to the park, all the things that little boys do.”
Jessica said it took Harry longer to learn and his speech development was delayed. But he has learnt to communicate using Makaton – a language programme designed to support spoken language using signs and symbols.
“He is doing really well,” said Jessica.
“He can speak two key word phrases and signs using Makaton. His friends enjoy being around him – they too have been learning Makaton signs.”
The family praised Fishbourne Pre-School, which Jessica said had been ‘a fantastic support’.
“All the staff have learnt Makaton sign language to communicate with Harry and improve his speech. He is extremely fond of all the staff there, especially Bev, his key worker, and they have formed a very strong bond.
“They have been brilliant in including Harry in everything and not treating him any different.”
The family, which includes 13-month old Ruby, said they never underestimated Harry.
“We take each day as it comes. We are so very lucky and proud of our son,” said Jessica.
Around one in every 1,000 babies in the UK are born with Down’s Syndrome – and 80 per cent are born to mothers under 35.
Although there are some health implications for Harry, today people with Down’s Syndrome can look forward to a longer life if given the right medical attention.
“Many people in the UK are attending mainstream schools, passing exams and living full, semi-independent adult lives,” said Jessica.
“We just want people to know there are so many positives to having a child with Down’s Syndrome, they certainly outweigh negatives. He changes perceptions.
“I think people are surprised to see he is like any other little boy.”