Did you know the month of October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month? This is a time to honor those with Down Syndrome, share educational information and highlight how far patient’s have progressed with Down Syndrome over the years.
What is Down Syndrome?
When a person has an extra copy of chromosome 21, one of the 46 chromosomes, they are born with Down Syndrome. During fertilization, a developing egg or sperm cell divides incorrectly which results in an extra chromosome 21. An extra copy is called a “trisomy” thus the other name, Trisomy 21.
Chromosomes are packages of genes that determine how a baby’s body forms during pregnancy and how it will grow after conception and birth. The extra copy of chromosome 21 changes how the brain and body develop and may cause mental and physical challenges for the baby. There is no recognized reason this occurs, but a higher percentage of babies are born to mothers greater than 35 years of age.
This lifelong condition may be associated with other health problems like breathing issues, hearing loss, and eye diseases. Almost half of babies with Down Syndrome have heart defects. Even though people with Down’s look similar, each person with Down’s has different abilities.
Types of Down Syndrome:
Down Syndrome is the most common chromosomal diagnosis in the United States with about 6,000 babies born yearly or about 1 in very 700 babies.
There are 3 different types of Down Syndrome:
- Down- Each cell in the body has three separate copies of 21 instead of the usual two. 95% of Down’s children are born with this type.
- Translocation Down- The extra chromosome 21 is present but is attached to a different chromosome. Found in 3% of Down’s patients.
- Mosaic Down- A mixture or combination of numbers of chromosome 21, where some 21s have three copies and others have the normal two. These children may have fewer features of the condition due to the number of normal 21 chromosomes. 2% of Down’s patients are Mosaic.
Progress Over the Years:
Positive changes are happening. Medical research and community education have helped improve the health and quality of life for Down’s patients.
- In 1960, 60% of children with Trisomy 21 died before age 5.
- Today the average life expectancy of a person with Down Syndrome is 55 years.
- From an early age, state services are available to children with Down Syndrome which helps them improve their intellectual and physical abilities and reach their full potential.
- Many children with Down Syndrome are now mainstreamed into regular classes in school and graduate high school.
- Most young people with Down Syndrome continue to learn many new skills and increase their confidence and independence right through their early adult life.
- Many attend postsecondary programs, enjoying meaningful careers, and live long, healthy and productive lives.
In an article titled 48 Parents of Kids with Down Syndrome Share What They Wish You Knew, parents of children with Down Syndrome spoke about what they wish others knew about their children, some of their comments are provided below:
- “I wish people knew that no matter what my son goes through, he is probably the happiest person alive — full of smiles and energy. He gives people that special feeling when he hugs them.”
- “His extra chromosome does not define him.”
- “She is more alike others than not.”
- “She has a way of sensing when people need a hug.”
In another article titled 9 successful people with Down Syndrome who prove life is worth living, it shared various achievements of patients with Down’s Syndrome and how they worked hard toward something they believed in and were able to achieve great things:
- A 16 yr. old from Oregon fulfilled his dream of hiking to the Mt. Everest South Base Camp in Nepal, a total of 70 miles to an altitude of 17,500 feet. He was helping raise money for a non- profit that supports those living with disabilities.
- A musician graduated from high school with a 4.3 grade average and went on to graduate from the Berkshire Hills Music Academy. He plays seven instruments including the violin, piano, trumpet and saxophone. In 2006 he married Carolyn Bergeron who also has Down Syndrome.
- In 2013, the first person with Down Syndrome was elected as a councilwoman.
- One well known international speaker is a decorated, gold medal winning skier, cycler, and swimmer and has interned for a state senator. She teaches reading and math to preschoolers with Down Syndrome. She says she loves her life 100%, and she proves that you can have a very fulfilling life with Down Syndrome.
October is the time to celebrate those individuals with Down Syndrome. We salute them for their strength, courage, and never-ending beautiful smiles!