Tomorrow March 21st, is World Down Syndrome Day. This a day dedicated to raising awareness of Down Syndrome. 2018 marks the 13th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day, and this year focuses on how people with Down Syndrome make meaningful contributions throughout their lives. This years hash tag related to World Down Syndrome day is #WhatIBringToMyCommunity.
What is Down Syndrome?
Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder that is caused when abnormal cell division results in extra genetic material from chromosome 21. In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, which is where genetic material is stored. Genes carry the instruction manual for all of our inherited traits, and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. In the typical person, each parent provides 1/2 of every pair of chromosomes (23 pairs in total). Down Syndrome occurs when a person is born with a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material changes development and causes the characteristics associated with Down Syndrome. Nearly 1 in every 700 babies born in the United States has Down syndrome.
Physical Traits and Characteristics of People with Down Syndrome
- Low Muscle Tone
- Small Stature
- Upward Slant to the Eyes
- Flatter Faces
- Protruding Tongue
- Loose Joints
Babies born with Down Syndrome are typically an average size at birth, but may grow more slowly than others. Additionally, due to their low muscle tone and loose joints, they may have trouble holding themselves and keeping their heads upright.
Misconceptions about Down Syndrome
Traditionally, parents who had children with Down Syndrome were encouraged from an early age to institutionalize them, the reasoning behind this being that they would not be able to live normal lives, and be a burden on their families. In reality, many people with Down Syndrome live on their own with limited assistance, hold jobs, and have romantic relationships just like anyone else. Below are some additional popular misconceptions about Down Syndrome.
- Only older parents have children with Down syndrome
- According to the CDC, about 80% of children who have down syndrome are born to women younger than 35. There could be a discrepancy in this information, however, as on average younger woman have more babies.
- People with Down syndrome die young
- The average life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome is nearly 60 years old. Some people with Down syndrome live into their 80s.
- People with Down syndrome can’t read or write
- The majority of children with Down syndrome can learn to read and write.
- All people who have Down syndrome will develop Alzheimer’s disease
- Nearly 100% of people with Down syndrome will have the plaques and tangles in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, however this does not mean that they have the actual symptomatic disease. One study from 1989 indicates that between 20-55% of people with Down syndrome with develop symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease.
- People with Down syndrome cannot have children
- While it is true that a person with Down syndrome may have challenges conceiving, women who have Down syndrome are fertile and can give birth. There are some older studies that are currently being investigated, which claim that men with Down syndrome are infertile. However, there have been a handful of documented instances in which men with Down syndrome have fathered children.
- People with Down syndrome are always happy
- People with Down syndrome have different moods and feelings, the same as anyone else. In fact, one recent literature review of previous studies found that people with Down syndrome are at a higher risk for depression, and there is evidence to suggested that it is under-treated.