3 Sep 2012
The 11th World Down Syndrome Congress took place from the 14th to the 17th August 2012 at the Cape Town International Convention Center in South Africa. According to the chairperson of the occasion Mrs Vanessa Dos Santos, there were 680 people that attended the Congress. People came from over 47 countries and from all continents of the world. 85 attended INDABA (pre congress workshop for people with Down Syndrome).
The quantity, quality and variety of presentations were excellent. In all there were over 120 speakers that made presentations at plenary and concurrent sessions. We listened to people with Down Syndrome, experts of various fields related to this problem, parents and government people. There were scores of people living with Down Syndrome that attended the congress and participants had the opportunity to watch some of them display their talents whether be it dancing or singing
I went to the conference with my daughter to share my experience with other parents and for her to meet other people in a similar situation like her. As usual, whenever you attend such occasions you encounter some exceptional people and listen to some moving stories. There was this lady certainly in her late fifties who was either from Australia or New Zealand with her 14 year old adopted child with down syndrome. She told me that the biological parents of that child put her up for adoption when they discovered that their baby had down syndrome. This lady and her husband opted to take this ‘special needs’ child even though they had their own kids that were normal. I told her that I had total respect and admiration for their courage and selflessness. Another moving story was that told by this South African man with Down syndrome in his early thirties. While praising his mother, he told the audience in the plenary session that, “My father ran away from me” when he discovered that I had Down Syndrome and will have learning disability. His story caused many people in the hall to shed some tears and as a father I almost had some guilt but had to remind myself that I did not run away from my own child.
The people living with down syndrome told the audience that their biggest problem is not their disability but the way society generally treats ‘special needs people’. A girl with down syndrome told the audience how other children used to make fun of her disability in school. She said that she has often asked them if they want her extra chromosome?…a reference to the extra ‘21 chromosome’ found in the cells of most down syndrome people.
In order not to make the trip boring for my daughter, I had to allocate some time and resources to visiting some touristic sites around Cape Town. We took the opportunity to visit Table Mountain by cable car. We also visited the castle, the aquarium and took a ride in the wheel and in a boat at Water Front.
My own presentation was titled “My Eighteen Years of Living with a Down Syndrome Child…An Experience from Cameroon”. You can read the full presentation at this link.
WDSC youtube videos
Njei Moses Timah