Down syndrome is the most
common chromosomal variation in humans. It occurs in approximately 1 in
every 733 live births. There are between 350,000 to 400,000 people with
Down syndrome in the United States. It is not related to race,
nationality, religion, or socio-economic status. Nothing that a parent
did or did not do during the pregnancy causes a baby to have Down
syndrome. While the age of the mother can be a factor, 80% of people
with Down syndrome are born to parents under the age of 35, simply
because women in that age group have the most babies. Down syndrome
occurs evenly in male and female babies. People with Down syndrome carry
more traits of their birth family than the traits of Down syndrome. A
person who has Down syndrome is neither a “Downs kid” nor a “Down
syndrome person.” He or she is simply a person who has Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is named
after Dr. John Langdon Down, an English physician who first described
the characteristic features of Down syndrome in 1866. “Down syndrome” is
used, as opposed to “Down’s Syndrome”, because it was named after Dr.
Down. For an unexplained reason in cell development, each cell results
in 47 instead of the usual 46 chromosomes. The resulting medical
diagnosis is Down syndrome and is generally diagnosed as Trisomy 21,
which describes the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome.
This extra genetic material causes changes in the orderly development
of the body and brain, as well as the physical characteristics and
delayed physical, intellectual, and language development associated with
People with Down syndrome
are more like their typically-developing peers than they are different.
There is great diversity within the population in terms of personality,
intelligence, appearance, humor, learning styles, compassion, compliance
and attitude. Although they may share characteristics and similarities
in appearance, children with Down syndrome will look more like their
family members than they do one another. They will have a full range of
emotions and attitudes, are creative and imaginative in play, and grow
up to live independent lives with varying degrees of support and
accommodations. People with Down syndrome benefit from loving homes,
early interventions, special education, appropriate medical care and
positive public attitudes. As with all children, quality education in
neighborhood schools, preschools, and at home is important to provide
the opportunities needed to develop strong academic and social skills.
When considering people with Down syndrome the focus should be first on the person, and second on the disability!
Myth: People With Down Syndrome Have Severe Mental Retardation
Standard IQ tests do not measure many important areas of intelligence,
and you will often be surprised by the memory, insight, creativity, and
cleverness of many with Down Syndrome. The high rates of learning
disabilities in students with Down syndrome often mask a range of
abilities and talents. Clearly, educators and researchers are still
discovering the full educational potential of people with Down syndrome.
Throughout the country there are many shining
examples of young adults with Down syndrome that are graduating from
high-school, attending college and making their communities a better
place to live.
Myth: Adults With Down Syndrome Are Unemployable
Businesses are seeking young adults with Down syndrome for a variety of
positions. They are being employed in small and medium sized offices, by
banks, corporations, nursing homes, hotels, and restaurants. They work
in the music and entertainment industry, in clerical positions, and in
the computer industry. People with Down syndrome bring to their jobs
enthusiasm, reliability, and dedication.
Myth: People With Down Syndrome Are Always Happy
People with Down syndrome have feelings just like everyone else in the
population. They respond to positive expressions of friendship and are
hurt and upset by inconsiderate behavior.
Myth: Adults With Down Syndrome Are Unable To Form Close Relationships Leading to Marriage
People with Down syndrome want the same things out of life as we do.
They want friendships and opportunities to date and socialize. They want
to form on-going relationships with other individuals with
disabilities, as well as those without. Some get married and enjoy a
rich family life, while some stay single and enjoy activities with
Myth: Individuals With Down Syndrome Are Stubborn
A student with Down syndrome may not be able to tell you how they feel
or may be unable to readily change mental gears when offered new
information or direction. This can lead to the false perception that
they are being “stubborn.” Behavior is communication – individuals with
Down syndrome typically face challenges with both receptive and
expressive language. By implementing strategies to increase
communication, this perceived behavior can be greatly reduced.
Myth: There Are No Effective Treatments For Health Issues Related to Down Syndrome
Research on Down syndrome is making great strides in identifying the
genes on chromosome 21 that cause the characteristics of Down syndrome.
Scientists now feel strongly that, in the future, it will be possible to
improve, correct, or prevent many of the health conditions associated
with Down syndrome.
Myth: Children With Down Syndrome Will Never Grow Up To Be Independent
There are now many more opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome
to participate in aspects of community life: education, recreation,
employment, social, and family life. As the move towards community
integration continues, we see more supports and services being developed
that allow adults with Down syndrome to live on their own, with friends
or on college campuses. Some individuals are even buying their own
homes with their own money!
Myth: Having A Sibling With Down Syndrome Will Be A Hardship For “Typical” Children In The Family
Most families report that their “typical” kids are more compassionate,
patient, and tolerant of all people because of their experience of
having a sibling with Down syndrome. The sibling relationship is
generally a typical one – full of love, occasional arguments, and just