International Model Madeline Stuart Visits Uganda To Spread Awareness About Down Syndrome
By Christa Preston
International model Madeline Stuart, has taken some time away from the glitz and glam of the catwalk to visit Uganda and use fashion to spread awareness for children with Down Syndrome.
For children with developmental disabilities in Uganda, life remains a struggle. Local language has no word for Autism or Down Syndrome. Instead these children are often called “kasiru” meaning stupid, “katembwe,” unable, cursed or sometimes even thought to be possessed. Lack of awareness feeds the negative stigma towards these children. Still today many are hidden away, locked inside their home. They are turned away from schools and more likely than any child to face abuse.
Madeline Stuart, who herself has Down Syndrome is dedicating to challenging this stigma. Madeline has joined with EmbraceKulture, an organization based in Entebbe working for children with intellectual disabilities, to spread awareness about Down Syndrome and the potential of all children.
Believe in Potential From Brisbane, Australia, and Madeline’s career began in 2015 when she told her mother she wanted to be a model. Rosanne Stuart encouraged her, not just to dream but to work hard for what she wanted. Her career quickly skyrocketed. She has since participated in famous New York fashion week and walked the catwalk in fashion shows around the world. She was recognized by Melange as the 2015 Model of the Year.
When Maddy heard about the crisis for children with intellectual disabilities in Uganda she was quick to volunteer her services. Maddy is dedicated to changing the way people perceive disabilities. She wants to encourage people to understand that Down Syndrome is a blessing and something to be celebrated.
On their tour of Uganda, Maddy and her mother met with several schools and parents groups to talk about the struggles and triumphs faced by parents and persons with Down Syndrome around the world.
Madeline is a powerful role model for many of the children we work with. She has helped many believe they can overcome the stigma and be who and what they want to be. Her visit will break down barriers and misconceptions and encourage many in Uganda to allow children to dream and reach their potential,”said Christa Preston, the founder of EmbraceKulture.
Highlights from Madeline’s trip
During her visit Maddy presented the certificate to Entebbe Zoo, recognizing it as the first ever Sensory Friendly Zoo in Africa and launching Entebbe’s commitment to becoming an exemplary inclusive community for children with disabilities.
Many children with intellectual disabilities, particularly those with Autism, also have Sensory Disabilities. This means they can be overwhelmed by sensory experiences, like sight, sound, touch and taste. The Sensory Friendly initiative requires training of staff as well as specific equipment. Families from around the world who have children with sensory disabilities search for this certification as a sign of a place where their children can go and enjoy like any other child.
Maddy’s trip hit its crescendo when she took to the stage at the annual Special Children’s Trust Disability and Awareness Fun Day to walk the catwalk with Miss Uganda and other children.
What is Down Syndrome?
About 1 in 700 children are born with Down Syndrome, a disability that affects both the physical and intellectual development of a child. Down Syndrome is caused by extra genetic material, an extra chromosome that happens at the moment of conception. Many children with Down Syndrome have gone on to accomplish incredible things including modeling, acting and completing university.
All children with Down Syndrome are unique and the characteristics of one child may differ from the characteristics of another.
Many first notice Down Syndrome because of the unique physical traits of the child. Even when babies, children with Down Syndrome have certain features including:
- Eyes that slant upwards
- A small nose that appears flattened
- A small mouth that makes the tongue appear large
- Small ears
- A single crease in the palm of the hand
- Short hands and fingers
- Raised second toe
- Gap between big toe and second toe
With these noticeable physical features, there are other common features that are not immediately noticeable including:
- Poor muscle tone – the baby may seem floppy and does not sit on his/her own at the age other children begin to
Loose skin at the back of the neck
- Heart defects are common, occurring in 50% of most cases
- Problems with the eyes or vision
- Hearing issues
- Intellectual disability, meaning delays in learning
While Down Syndrome can affect the intellectual development, these children are often able to learn well and should be encouraged to attend school to develop their skills and independence.