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Q:  How does Down syndrome happen?

A:  Down syndrome appears when a person has either a partial or complete copy of chromosome 21.  It’s due to this augmentation of genetic makeup that changes the path of progression, and originates the characteristics often associated with Down syndrome.


Q:  Is Down syndrome common?

A:  Out of all genetic disorders, Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring condition.  The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says that one in every 700 children born in the United States are born with Down Syndrome.  That’s about 6000 every year.  There is no race or economic group of people that it happens in more than another.  It can occur to any unborn child.  Down syndrome was often hinted at in science, literature, and art for centuries.  But by the late nineteenth century, John LangdonDown, an English physician, published an accurate essay and description of a person who had Down syndrome.  It was published in 1866, and Down become the father of the syndrome.  It wasn’t until 1959 that French physician Jérôme Lejeune identified Down syndrome as a chromosomal condition.  By 2000, an international team of scientists had successfully identified and cataloged each of the approximately 329 different genes on Chromosome 21.


Q:  Does the age of the mother effect the changes of Down syndrome?

A:  There is a larger change and occurrence of Down syndrome in mothers with an increased age.  Because younger moms have a higher fertility rate, 80% of the children born with Down syndrome are born to moms 35 years old or younger.


Q:  Is there just one kind of Down syndrome?

A:  No, there are actually three types.  Mosaicism, which accounts for 1% of diagnosed cases; Translocation, which counts for 4% of cases; and the more common Trisomy 21 (nondisjunction), which rounds out the other 95% of cases.


Q:  Do people with Down syndrome have other medical issues?

A:  People with Down syndrome usually have an increased risk for a variety of medical conditions.  Some include Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia, congenital heart defects (like Imani had), respiratory problems, thyroid conditions, and hearing problems.


Q:  Are there outward physical traits of Down syndrome?

A:  There are a few more common ones.  Those with Down syndrome can often have a small stature, lesser muscle toning, their eyes can slant upward.  They might also have a single, and deep crease across the center of the palm of their hands.  These traits vary greatly depending on the person.  They could have a lot of the traits, or possibly none at all.  There are no two with exactly the same traits.


Q:  How long do those with Down syndrome live?

A:  The life expectancy of persons with Down syndrome used to be much shorter than it is today.  In more recent recorded decades, people with Down syndrome live up to 60-years-old.  Just twenty-five years ago, the number was closer to only twenty-five years old.


Q:  What is the quality of social life for someone with Down syndrome?

A:  Depending on the level of severity, people with Down syndrome often attend school, have jobs, can make lucid and educated choices in situations and decisions that affect them personally.  They can have meaningful and loving relationships even beyond parental or friendships.  They have the cognitive ability to vote, and be part of society in many great ways.


Q:  Is it the same as a person being “slow”?

A:  We consider “slow” a derogative term.  What is slow to one is quick to another, and vice versa.  Down syndrome people can experience cognitive delays.  However, the effect is normally moderate or mild.  It is not indicative of any of their talents, and strengths they possess as an individual human being.  Well fleshed-out curriculums and programs, a stimulating home life, great health care, and positive reinforcement and support from friends and family, and the local community help enable people with Down syndrome to have a productive and fulfilling life.

Down Syndrome Q & A

Questions & Answers

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