After having a baby with Down syndrome it can be easy to focus on the disability instead of exploring ways for raising a child with Down syndrome to experience life and live fully in their own way. People who don’t have Down syndrome often seen it very clinically. It’s not uncommon for parents, after having a baby with Down syndrome, to treat the condition as an impossible barrier to the child’s life. It’s a natural thing to do and in no way is it wrong to have feelings like this, but those feelings can easily overshadow the fact that we should be celebrating Down syndrome’s unique exceptionalities.
Around 10% of the world’s population, some 650 million people, live with a disability. Down syndrome remains one at the center of a great deal of research with so many aspects that still remain unknown. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently made a big step in working toward better understanding the intricacies of Down syndrome.
With what looks to be the largest single investment in research on Down syndrome, MIT has received a $28.6 million gift from the Alana Foundation to build the Alana Down Syndrome Center. The Brazil-based organization is dedicated to promoting children’s rights to integral development and fostering new forms of well being. With this gift, they’re investing heavily in the biology and neuroscience of Down syndrome.
“The Alana Foundation’s inspiring gift will position MIT’s researchers to investigate new pathways to enhance and extend the lives of those with Down syndrome,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif.
The money will fund research into the neurocognitive complexities at work in Down syndrome. Scholars, researchers, and students will be able to contribute to research that stands to change the lives of people with Down syndrome. The goal, while increasing knowledge pertaining to the genetic condition, also aims to encourage more of the world’s brightest scientific minds to join the ranks of researchers in the realm of Down syndrome. With advocacy and science walking hand-in-hand, the funds are helping the world to work toward building a brighter future that emphasizes the joy in living with the differing abilities present in Down syndrome.
“We couldn’t be happier and more hopeful as to the size of the impact this center can generate. It’s an innovative approach that doesn’t focus on the disability but, instead, focuses on the barriers that can prevent people with Down syndrome from thriving in life in their own way,” said Alana Foundation founder Ana Lucia Villela.
Villela, after having a baby with Down syndrome, recognized the importance of focusing on how we can change the way we think about Down syndrome rather than keeping the status quo of treating it as a barrier to a fulfilling life. The gift to MIT is a pivotal step in that direction.