NDSS partners with Coordown and other International Organizations to launch "Assume That I Can."

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Ending the stereotypes and low expectations is a concrete action  

each of us can take to build true inclusivity. 

For World Down Syndrome Day 2024, CoorDown presents ASSUME THAT I CAN, the international awareness campaign created in collaboration with the New York-based agency SMALL. 


A young woman with Down syndrome challenges the low expectations others have of her and proposes a reversal of perspective: at school, in the workplace, at home, and in her community. 


This year, we're asking people who have Down syndrome across the world  

to share how assumptions based on negative stereotypes might have affected them. 


March 14, 2023, (Rome, Italy) - CoorDown - the National Coordination of Associations of People with Down Syndrome – in partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society and other international organizations, has launched the international awareness campaign "ASSUME THAT I CAN” to call for everyone to put an end to prejudice and support the concrete potential of each person who has Down syndrome.  


Stereotypes, biases, and low expectations strongly affect every aspect of the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. They represent boundaries which limit their ambitions, opportunities at school, in the workplace, in sports, in their communities, friendships, and romantic relationships. 


"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. And there you go: the prophecy self-fulfills. But in my opinion, there are no difficult or easy concepts, there is always a simple way to explain things. If I think of all the things that were not explained and taught to me, well I really get angry," said Marta Sodano. Marta is a 29-year-old Italian woman with Down syndrome who spoke during the World Down Syndrome Day Conference at the United Nations. 


The self-fulfilling prophecy is a sociological and psychological concept, first described in 1948 by the U.S. sociologist Robert K. Merton, illustrating how people’s assumptions and expectations affect events to such an extent that the initial prophecy comes true. These are not abstract inconsequential actions but rather a mental process conducive to creating a situation that has tangible effects on one’s life and affects social circumstances. 


This, and Marta Sodano’s words, have inspired the film "ASSUME THAT I CAN”. 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. Then halfway through the film there’s a twist: 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. 

If a teacher believes their students can learn, challenges them, and finds the right strategies to teach their subject matter, most likely they will learn it. If a parent supports their child and gives them the ability to make their own choices, then their child is more likely to succeed in whatever they set their mind to. Similarly, if an employer or co-worker believes that a colleague who has Down syndrome can carry out a task and create the right environment for teaching and learning to take place, then maybe they will master it. It’s a profound shift in consciousness that goes beyond denouncing denied rights, calling on anyone who wishes to actively fight to realize inclusion for all.  


The international campaign started with CoorDown in Italy and is supported by 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. 


Starting today until March 21st, CoorDown, NDSS, and other international partners 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. These will be a series of videos on social media. 


The film “ASSUME THAT I CAN” will run on CoorDown’s channels and will be distributed on all of NDSS’ platforms. The campaign was born from the 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. 


Madison Tevlin began her career at the age of 12 when her cover of John Legend’s “All of Me” went viral. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Madison is a model, advocate and actor. Her credits include: Mr. D, Who Do You Think I Am, hosting the red carpet at the Canadian Screen Awards, and her iconic role as Cosentino in the film Champions, starring Woody Harrelson and directed by Bobby Farrelly. Madison is the first person with Down syndrome to be nominated for a Canadian Screen Award - Best Host, Talk Show or Entertainment News. Madison is a member of Best Buddies International, she walked the runway as part of the Knix Confidence Tour, was the keynote speaker at the Dear Mom conference in Laguna Beach and received the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy award in 2023 from the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. Madison was honored among 19 other honorees at the 2024 NDSS Gala & Auction. Madison loves to challenge misunderstandings, by presenting her own story as a person who has passions and goals and is capable of much more than people expect of her. 



Antonella Falugiani, President, CoorDown: «Changing the perspective with which we approach disability is the challenge launched by CoorDown for 2024. A new milestone that embraces the long journey made in 12 years of commitment to promoting the rights of people with Down syndrome with the Global Campaigns. We decided to launch a call to action, which aims to engage the whole society, not just our community, because disability really affects everyone, and everyone must be able to act to change the culture that produces discrimination. With the story of "Assume That I Can" we show how each of us can contribute to inclusion by listening and looking at people with Down syndrome, their needs and desires without warped filters. Only in this way can we tear down the walls that still limit the lives of people with intellectual disabilities». 


Luca Lorenzini and Luca Pannese, Executive Creative Directors, SMALL New York: «This year, we wanted to make a very different film than in previous years. Taking inspiration from a speech Marta Sodano gave to the United Nations a few years ago, we set out to give a strong message against prejudice. Thanks to Madison's great acting skills and versatility and the talent of director Rich Lee, we made a film full of energy that we hope will help break down the stereotypes that still restrict the dreams and plans of people with Down syndrome». 


Karim Bartoletti, Partner/MD/Executive Producer, Indiana Production: ««Every year, CoorDown, with their creative and production partners tries to disrupt perception on the world of disabilities with a campaign that can carry the weight of a strong creative insight that can shine a new light on stereotypes and biases that are part of the lives of people with Down syndrome - and all intellectual disabilities as a whole. We thought the insight of the campaign was so strong that we adopted it in every aspect of production. “You Assume that I will shoot this campaign like any other commercial that deals with disabilities?” “You assume we cannot find an actor or an actress that can carry the weight of the whole film on his or her shoulder?” “You assume we cannot get Rich Lee to direct it and Chris Probst to light it?” If we want to create awareness and break boundaries through the work that we create and produce, we need to do it ourselves. We assumed that we could and we certainly did, because it certainly shows in the originality and power and creative strength of this year’s Coordown World Down Syndrome Day campaign. We are very proud of how the “Assume that I can” campaign is unlike anything else we have seen or done before.» 


World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is an international awareness day officially declared by the UN General Assembly in December 2022. All are invited to observe World Down Syndrome Day to spread awareness and knowledge about Down syndrome, to create a new culture of diversity, and to promote respect and inclusion for all people with Down syndrome.  

The choice of the date 3/21 is not accidental: Down syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21, is characterized by the presence of an extra chromosome - three instead of two - in chromosome pair 21. The theme of this year's World Day is “End the stereotypes!” Stereotypes are harmful: for people with Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities.  



For more information, email Michelle Sagan at media@ndss.org





The Coordinamento delle associazioni delle persone con sindrome di Down was established in 1987 with the aim of promoting communication actions shared among the various Italian organizations engaging in the protection and promotion of the rights of people who have Down syndrome, and today it is the official representative body interacting with all Institutions. Every second Sunday of October, CoorDown promotes the National Down Syndrome Day and on 21 March of every year the World Down Syndrome Day, also by producing international communication campaigns which over the years have been awarded as many as 23 Cannes lions, of which 9 golden, at the International Festival of Creativity. 


About NDSS 

Founded in 1979, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) empowers individuals with Down syndrome and their families by driving policy change, providing resources, engaging with local communities, and shifting public perceptions. NDSS engages grassroots advocates at the federal, state, and local levels and creates resources to support individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and caregivers across the lifespan on topics including education, employment, health and wellness, and aging. NDSS founded the National Buddy Walk® Program in 1995 and hosts community engagement events throughout the country including the New York City Buddy Walk® and Times Square Video, the NDSS Adult Summit, and the Down Syndrome Advocacy Conference. Visit www.ndss.org to learn more. 






Agency: SMALL 

Executive Creative Directors: Luca Pannese, Luca Lorenzini 

Creative Director: Paolo Montanari 

Managing Director: Alberto Scorticati 

Account Manager: Chiara Guadagnini  


Production Company: Indiana Production S.p.A. 

Director: Rich Lee 

DP: Christopher Probst, ASC 

Executive Producer: Karim Bartoletti 

Senior Producer: Silvia Bergamaschi 

Assistant Producer: Luca Bettinetti 

1st AD: Andrew Coffing 

Editor: Luca Angeleri 

Original Music: Alessandro Cristofori and Diego Perugini for Stabbiolo Music 

Colorist: Danilo Vittori  

Post Production Audio: Bravagente 

Senior Post Producer: Alga Pastorelli 

Post Produzione Video: 22 Dogs  


Service Company: Vivi Film 

Executive Producer: Carlos Soms 

Production coordinator: Nerea Soms 

Art Director: John Blud 

Stylist: Cris Urso 


Media Office CoorDown ODV 

Paola Amicucci  

Tel. +39 345.7549218