Ending stereotypes on World Down Syndrome Day

Mother and son embracing each other
Leslie Bromfield, right, says her son, Jordan Bromfield, sees Down Syndrome as just another quality a person has, like the colour of their eyes. — Photos: Rhian Campbell 

Having a child with Down syndrome is the gift Rohan and Leslie Bromfield said they never knew they wanted. Their son, Jordan, was born with the condition.

"Jordan has exceeded any expectations we had, and certainly added more joy and light to our family than we thought possible," they said.

World Down Syndrome Day is 21 March. It's a global awareness day that has been observed by the United Nations since 2012. This year's theme calls for an end to the stereotypes about Down syndrome.


"Something we had to realise is that people with Down syndrome can often live independent lives. ... Many adults have jobs, careers, and some even get married," Leslie Bromfield said. "There are many options now for semi-independent living, and we've had to adjust our thinking that Jordan may not actually live with us forever. I'm still not used to that idea."

Jordan Bromfield is a student at Village Montessori. Leslie Bromfield credits the school — which promotes inclusion and has several students with varying conditions and learning disabilities — and other organisations such as Inclusion Cayman for giving her son the tools he needs to succeed.

"I think like with any child, as a parent you wish you could shield them from disappointments and heartbreak ... but the truth is, that's not the real world," Leslie Bromfield said. "We try to encourage the approach of having a 'growth mindset' and an 'attitude of gratitude' every day. I will often hear Jordan say something like, 'It's not that I can't do it, I just can't do it yet.'"

Family of three
Nikki Maxwell, left, Shawn Maxwell, right, and their son, Liam, say they’ve received tremendous support from the community.

Liam Maxwell, who also attends Village Montessori, says World Down Syndrome Day holds a special meaning for him.

"It’s my day as the world celebrates and recognises my special abilities," Maxwell said, adding that recently learning how to spell his name is one of the accomplishments he's most proud of.

"[People with Down Syndrome] are loving and caring people who have special needs because we are born with an extra chromosome and sometimes learn and communicate at different rates and levels."

While the Cayman Islands Government doesn't specifically track the number of residents with Down syndrome, the 2021 census indicates that 202 people had "intellectual disabilities" at the time of the report's release, 3.1 for every 1,000 people.

"It was challenging in the early stages," said Liam's mother, Nikki Maxwell. "But after researching, we discovered an amazing community where knowledge was shared and as a result, transitioning has now become a lot easier."

Opportunities for people with Down syndrome have expanded over the years, Leslie Bromfield said, and she's grateful for the parents that came before her that kept pushing for more opportunities for their children.

"It has been a painful and difficult road for many, and we still have much work to do," she said. "I encourage anyone who has an opportunity to employ or support someone with additional needs to please consider the possibility. Our Cayman community will actually grow into a more advanced, richer society when we embrace and support those with additional needs."

This article was originally featured in the March 2024 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

Young boy running

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