Facts about Down Syndrome
Down syndrome has for too long been shrouded in fear and darkness; the facts are far better than the myths. Here are the facts.
Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality, occurring in approximately 1 in 900 births. More than 350,000 individuals with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome and thus have 47 chromosomes in every cell instead of 46. To date, medical researchers have not determined the cause. What is known is that Down syndrome occurs among all races, ethnic groups, nationalities, and socioeconomic classes. It also occurs evenly in boys and girls. It is important to realize that nothing that the mother or father does - or fails to do - before or during pregnancy, can cause Down syndrome.
Because chromosomes and the genetic information they carry determine how we grow and develop, the presence of an extra chromosome does affect a child in a number of ways. The word "syndrome" means that many different characteristics are seen together as a package. Some of these physical characteristics may include low muscle tone, eyes that appear to slant upward, a flat nasal bridge, extra skin folds at the back of the neck, relatively small nose and ears, a larger gap between the first and second toes, and a single horizontal crease on either palm. While these characteristics are more common in an individual with Down syndrome, they are features that can be seen in anyone in the general population.
Since people with Down syndrome have the extra chromosome, they have features that cause them to resemble other individuals with Down syndrome. However, because there are 46 completely normal chromosomes, individuals with Down syndrome will also resemble their parents, brothers and sisters, and will possess their own unique personality.
Current research indicates that the majority of people with Down syndrome have mild to moderate developmental delays. There is NO correlation between physical characteristics and cognitive abilities. Today, less than five percent of individuals with Down syndrome have severe to profound intellectual disabilities; the majority have only a mild to moderate intellectual disability. An intellectual disability means that a person does not just learn more slowly, but that she or he actually learns differently and develops different strategies and mechanisms for learning.
It is impossible, either prior to birth or early in life, to determine any person's future strengths or weaknesses. Individuals with Down syndrome are lifelong learners and acquire new skills and talents when offered a variety of life experiences and opportunities. Just like their peers, they attend school, develop friendships, maintain jobs, participate in important personal decisions and make positive contributions to the community. People with Down syndrome are more like their nondisabled peers than they are different and they deserve the same opportunities.
Individuals with Down syndrome may have a greater incidence of health certain complications than that of the average person. Ongoing medical assessment with early detection and treatment are important.
Info excerpted from CDSS and NDSS brochures.