About Down syndrome
Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring genetic condition worldwide. It crosses all race, nationality, religion and socioeconomic status lines. In the United States, one in every 691 babies is born with Down syndrome, about 6,000 births per year. Today, there are more than 400,000 people with Down syndrome living in the USA.
Down syndrome is usually caused by a difficulty in cell division called nondisjunction. It is not known why this occurs. This happens at conception and is not related to anything the mother or father did during pregnancy or pre-conception.
The incidence of Down syndrome increases with advancing maternal age, however, 80% of children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age. Down syndrome occurs evenly in male and female babies.
Development and Learning
Although people with Down syndrome do have developmental delays, they also possess many talents and abilities and should be given the opportunity to fully develop and express those abilities.
Most children with Down syndrome have mild to moderate cognitive impairments. They are not very different from a typical child; in fact they are more alike than different.
Soon after birth a child with Down syndrome should start receiving Early Intervention services, including speech, physical, occupational, and developmental therapies. As the child grows, most attend their neighborhood school either in a typical classroom or in special education classes, or a combination of the two depending on the child’s needs.
Most if not all teenagers with Down syndrome attend High School, either graduating or earning a certificate of completion. Some go on to participate in college-level classes, earning degrees there as well.
Many adults with Down syndrome are fully capable of the responsibilities of holding a job in the community. Some will require a more structured environment.
People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory, vision, and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions. However, many of these conditions are now treatable and most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.
The life expectancy today has increased to about 55-60 years of age, with many adults with Down syndrome living into their 60’s and 70’s.