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Disability Empowerment

How NADS is Staying Strong During the Pandemic

Linda Smarto

Executive Director, National Association for Down Syndrome

The National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS) is the oldest organization in the country that serves children and adults with Down syndrome and their families. It was founded in 1961 by a group of Chicago parents. Currently, NADS operates with a staff of five and is governed by its board of directors composed of parents, professionals, and people with Down syndrome.

Although NADS primarily serves the Chicago Metropolitan area, we have kept the “National” in its name as it is the first organization of its kind. NADS receives requests for information from all over the United States and our newsletter, weekly E-blasts, printed materials, and website (translations available in 10 languages) are widely used to benefit and reach people around the world. 

NADS takes pride in providing direct services to our families and believes strongly in a grass-roots approach to community organizations. NADS has been primarily parent-driven and, nearly 60 years later, we have had the privilege of working with so many volunteers who have helped form NADS into becoming the reputable not-for-profit organization it is today.

Helping hands

NADS offers a unique support system to its families prenatally, as well as at-birth diagnoses. It has always been NADS’s mission “to ensure that all persons with Down syndrome have the opportunity to achieve their full potential in all aspects of community life.” 

NADS provides parent-to-parent support for every family, as well as a beautiful “Congratulations Basket” to welcome their new baby. Currently, we have 30 trained volunteers who have been connecting with new parents and delivering baskets on front doorsteps. 

While taking on a different approach in serving our families during the pandemic, NADS has been working hard to strengthen our relationships with parents and professionals virtually by hosting weekly sessions for our Self Advocates in Action group for teens and adults 16 and over, conducting seminars for schools and hospitals by educating staff and students, and providing resources for families who have a child with an additional diagnosis for our program called “More than Down Syndrome” (for children who also have ADD, ADHD, or Autism). 

Despite all the recent changes in the world, one thing remains the same: NADS is “staying strong,” and we will continue to showcase those in the Down syndrome community who are thriving and participating in wonderful and healthy activities.

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