BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time to celebrate the diverse talents and ambitions of those with Down Syndrome.

Dr. Michi Gates, executive director of Kern Regional Center, joined 17 News at Sunrise to talk about the message behind Down Syndrome Awareness Month, as well as advancements that have made large strides in increasing quality of life and visibility for those with Down Syndrome.

In 1983, the life expectancy for someone with Down Syndrome was just 25 years old. Now, 40 years later, that number has risen to 60-years-old. Dr. Gates spoke about some of the factors that have contributed to this drastic improvement, as well as some of the misconceptions people may have about individuals with Down Syndrome.

Dr. Gates also shared how important it is to acknowledge those in our community with Down Syndrome as people just like anyone else. Another important way to show support to community members with Down Syndrome, according to Dr. Gates, is to support small businesses, non-profits or other endeavors created by those with developmental disabilities in Kern County, as well as businesses that employ them.