5 Things You Should Know About Down Syndrome

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Today is World Down Syndrome Day, a day devoted to raising awareness about Down Syndrome (DS) and addressing common misconceptions about those who have DS. It falls on March 21 each year in order to draw attention to the uniqueness of the trisomy of the 21st chromosome which results in Down Syndrome. In honor of this day, we wanted to draw your attention to some things you should know about DS and how it relates to our mission at GPCC.

 

1. What is Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome occurs in a person when he/she has an extra copy (full or partial) of chromosome 21. The extra genetic material affects the development in the individual and results in the characteristics that we know to be associated with Down syndrome.1

 

2. Down Syndrome is not rare, hereditary, or more prevalent in certain ethnicities.

Down syndrome is actually the chromosomal condition that occurs in individuals most commonly. To give you an idea, about 1 in 700 babies in the US is born with DS. That comes out to about 6,000 each year. It occurs in people of all ethnicities and economic backgrounds. Down Syndrome is hereditary in only 1% of cases; the other 99% are completely random. The only known factor that increases the risk of DS is the age of the mother (over 35).2

 

3. People with Down Syndrome experience cognitive delays—but not as severe as stereotypes often imply.

People who have DS are able to participate in both public and private educational programs. They have cognitive delays that are generally mild to moderate, and social development is usually less delayed than other areas of development. Delays specifically in expressive language, grammar, and speech development are typical. For a person with DS, there is usually a gap that exists between his/her understanding and his/her ability to express him/herself clearly, and this can often result in frustration and lead to behavioral issues. People with Down Syndrome tend to have strong visual memory skills, and so educators try to appeal to this strength by applying visual aids when teaching in the classroom. Despite these delays, people with DS often grow up to live independently, have jobs, get married, and overall, lead typical lives.3

 

4. People with Down Syndrome are at increased risk for certain medical conditions—however, their life expectancy has increased dramatically in recent years.

These medical conditions include respiratory and hearing problems, congenital heart defects, Alzheimer’s disease, thyroid conditions, and childhood leukemia. The good news is that many of these conditions are treatable, so most people who have Down Syndrome lead healthy lives.4 In 1910, a child born with Down Syndrome oftentimes would not live to age 10. Today, due to medical advances and a better understanding of DS, the life expectancy is up to age 60, and even beyond.5

 

5. When an unborn child receives a Down Syndrome prenatal diagnosis, more often than not, he/she is aborted.

Data is very difficult to come by on this topic, so exact numbers are not available. However, one of the most recent studies conducted on this topic concluded that there has been a roughly 30% decrease in the DS population in the US which is a direct result of abortions. Another study has calculated an approximate termination rate of 67% following a prenatal diagnosis.6


We are so thankful for days such as World Down Syndrome Day that bring awareness and appreciation to a group of people who are often misunderstood. The numbers regarding termination of children with a DS diagnosis are both startling and disturbing.

At GPCC, we believe that all human life has inherent value, and that most assuredly includes those who may have an intellectual disability, such as Down Syndrome. DS is not something to be feared, nor should those who have it be eliminated. And our hope is that after today, you are more informed and equipped to combat misconceptions about Down Syndrome in our culture.

 

Mary Holloman is the Communications Assistant at GPCC and completely forgot about Valentine’s Day until she wrote this very article. She has a devilishly handsome husband and two kiddos: one almost 2-year-old and one due to arrive in May. When she’s not at the Care Center, Mary enjoys writing, making her son giggle uncontrollably, DIYing, and Diet Mountain Dew. You can follow her on her personal blog at www.AllMySpringsBlog.com.

 

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