Thursday March 21st was World Down Syndrome Day, and after reading an article sent to me by one of my co-workers I started thinking a lot about Down syndrome and asked myself, for one of the most common genetic disorders, how much do people really know about it?
What is Down syndrome?
Typically, people are born with 23 pairs of chromosomes. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.
This additional chromosome alters development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm – although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.
With 691 babies born in the the United States each year, Down syndrome is the most common genetic condition that affects individuals. Approximately 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome.
Facts about Down syndrome
• Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to develop their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.
• Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels.
• The incidence of births of children with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother. But due to higher fertility rates in younger women, 80% of children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age.
• People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions. Many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.
• Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades – from 25 in 1983 to 60 today.
• People with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, and contribute to society in many different ways.
• All people with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, but the effect is usually mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses.
Myths and Truths about Down syndrome
MYTH: Parents will not find community support in bringing up their child with Down syndrome.
TRUTH: In almost every community of the United States there are parent support groups and other community organizations directly involved in providing services to families of individuals with Down syndrome.
MYTH: Children with Down syndrome must be placed in segregated special education programs.
TRUTH: Children with Down syndrome have been included in regular academic classrooms in schools across the country. In some instances they are integrated into specific courses, while in other situations students are fully included in the regular classroom for all subjects. The current trend in education is for full inclusion in the social and educational life of the community. Increasingly, individuals with Down syndrome graduate from high school with regular diplomas, participate in post-secondary academic and college experiences and, in some cases, receive college degrees.
MYTH: Adults with Down syndrome are unemployable.
TRUTH: Businesses are seeking 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, childcare, the sports field and in the computer industry to name a few.
MYTH: Adults with Down syndrome are unable to form close interpersonal relationships leading to marriage.
TRUTH: People with Down syndrome have meaningful friendships, date, socialize, form ongoing relationships and marry.
MYTH: Down syndrome can never be cured.
TRUTH: 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 it will be possible to improve, correct or prevent many of the problems associated with Down syndrome in the future.
For the article that inspired me to blog about Down syndrome this week please visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/opinion/ethan-saylors-death-and-a-cry-for-down-syndrome-understanding.html?_r=1&