Those With Down Syndrome Want Others to ‘Assume’ They can do Anything

By Kyle O'Brien 

Stereotypes, biases and low expectations strongly affect every aspect of the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. Those create boundaries that limit their ambitions, their opportunities, friendships and romantic relationships.

On World Down Syndrome Day, March 21, CoorDown, the National Coordination of Associations of People with Down Syndrome, is launching an international awareness campaign “Assume That I Can” to put an end to prejudice and support the concrete potential of each person who has Down syndrome.

“I discovered that in psychology there is a concept called ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’ whereby a teacher who thinks that a student cannot understand would just act accordingly and therefore they would not teach the student,” said Marta Sodano, a 29-year-old Italian woman with Down syndrome, during the World Down Syndrome Day Conference at the United Nations to describe the hurdles she had to overcome in her school experience.


In the campaign film, the protagonist, a young woman with Down syndrome, challenges the low expectations others have of her and proposes a reversal of perspective: initially those around believe that she cannot drink a cocktail, be a boxer, study Shakespeare, live alone, achieve important goals.

Halfway through the film the protagonist forcefully invites the viewer, and society at large, to think outside the box and use the self-fulfilling prophecy positively: if you believe in me, if you trust in me, you can have a positive impact, and then, maybe, I will achieve goals, even unexpected ones.

The international campaign started with CoorDown in Italy, but sees the contribution of several international associations that are simultaneously launching the film worldwide: Canadian Down Syndrome Society, National Down Syndrome Society, Global Down Syndrome Foundation, Down’s Syndrome Association UK, Down Syndrome Australia and New Zealand Down Syndrome Association with the participation of members of the Fundació Catalana Síndrome de Down.

Until March, CoorDown and partners’ social media will broadcast the real experiences of people with Down syndrome and their families from all over the world, sharing examples of the types of stereotypes experienced and the biases they’ve overcome. The #OfCourse trend has seen hundreds of thousands of people revealing the stereotypes they’ve experienced around their job, hobby or identity.

The film will run on CoorDown’s TikTok channel and will be distributed on all the platforms of the organization and its partners. The campaign was a collaboration with the New York-based agency Small and was produced by Indiana Production and directed by Rich Lee, with Christopher Probst as director of photography. Music was composed and produced by Stabbiolo Music.

The campaign’s official hashtags are #AssumeThatICan #EndTheStereotypes #WorldDownSyndromeDay #WDSD24.