Down Syndrome Network of Montgomery County: Empowerment and Advocacy

Children with Down syndrome are born with a medical diagnosis that will instantly create boundaries between themselves and much of the world. Their learning disabilities give them special needs while their slowed physical growth and characteristic features can make them prone to psychological and even physical abuse. The syndrome itself is the result of a chromosome abnormality that affects life expectancy through a higher chance of congenital heart disease, sleep apnea and epileptic seizures. Alzheimer’s type dementia and sensory disabilities are often present from birth.

While most children born with chronic illness only deal with a limited set of symptoms, those with Down syndrome are faced with a veritable locker full. This, together with their social challenges, means they are in particular need of an extreme, structured support system that teaches them how to integrate into the world on professional and social levels while learning to become their own advocates. The Down Syndrome Network of Montgomery County offers those affected with a comprehensive range of services and programs aimed to unlock the hidden or stifled abilities of those with Down syndrome.


For a person with Down syndrome, good physical and mental health is an imperative goal to work towards but an unlikely one to achieve without coexisting support to improve other parts of living. For this and several other reasons, it becomes even more crucial to deal practically with all elements that can, realistically, allow individuals to gain quality of life in every area possible. Research in the science, politics and sociology worlds has constructed a series of ever-growing tools that are remarkably helpful in achieving that kind of life but families affected by Down syndrome cannot use them if they are not exposed to them.

Advocacy tools include disabilities acts, assistive technology, early intervention, appropriate public education and individualized family service plans. If the rights of individuals with Down syndrome are not accessible, no other form of assistance can succeed. Without competent professionals to play their role, the affected family struggles to remain strong. The Down Syndrome Network of Montgomery County (DSNMC) builds and works towards providing in all these areas to offer resources to those in the Washington D.C. area.

Advocacy and Empowerment

From the moment parents learn that they are expecting a baby with Down syndrome, sadness and confusion tend to accompany all the joy that comes with the experience of pregnancy. Parents who are educated and supported early are better able to introduce their new baby into a calm, medically prepared and empowered home.

The DSNMC begins from the first diagnosis to work on every tier of need, ranging from special needs education to fun. The Washington D.C. area has a range of events for children, teens and adults with disabilities, creating space for social interactions and friendship-building in nonjudgmental atmospheres. Confidence building is the first step towards teaching self-advocacy, since self-worth and improved social skills are crucial components when facing intimidating scenarios. The DSNMC has a network of sleepover camps, therapeutic getaways and educational centers that build on the celebration of ability while teaching skills such as sensory integration and friendship. On a practical level, networks of legal and medical advocates, together with educators, help to complete the picture.

The Annual Buddy Walk

The sheer number of tools needed by people with Down syndrome and their families means fundraising is the crucial fuel that keeps affected families functioning on as many levels as possible. The DSNMC serves the broader Washington area, leaving it with an enormous number of families needing support.

The Annual Buddy Walk is the largest fundraising activity that helps the society to keep ticking. Nearly 100 percent of raised money is fed directly into the services and programs the DSNMC and National Down Syndrome Society provides. It also offers a wonderful opportunity to empower team members and individuals with Down syndrome by letting each team raise their own funds for the society. This not only creates a memorable annual celebration but also significant confidence-building and pride. Fundraisers who have not yet become integrated in a work environment learn lessons that will serve them long after the walk is over; not least of which is that they can, indeed, achieve great things.