Many myths surround the disorder of Down syndrome — a medical condition afflicting one out of approximately 750 newborns. In the United States, about 400,000 individuals have Down syndrome — a disability that delays both physical and mental development.
What is true about the disability is that people with the condition have an extra copy of chromosome 21, giving them 47 chromosomes instead of 46. Scientists do not why this occurs, but they do know that women 35 years and older are at a higher risk of having a Down syndrome baby.
Children with the condition usually have low muscle tone when they are infants and children. Generally, this improves as the infant grows, although the baby will not reach milestones, such as holding the head up and crawling, at the same time as peers. Kids with Down syndrome grow slower than other children, and will have delayed speech and will take longer to learn skills such as feeding and dressing themselves.
Children with Down syndrome usually have slanted eyes, flat profiles and tongues that protrude.
Mentally, these children are affected in varying degrees, although most will have some intellectual disability. But they can learn and should be taught how to care for themselves. They can go to school and work and live meaningful lives.
Individuals with Down syndrome have a life expectancy of 60 years of age.
Scientists continue to try to identify the genes on the 21st chromosome that contribute to the symptoms of Down syndrome in the hope of finding therapies that can help individuals with the condition.
Prenatal screening can detect if an infant has Down syndrome. Once the infant is born,a genetic workup will be taken to confirm the diagnosis. There are many support groups to help parents with raising a child with Down syndrome and helping to provide an environment where the child can thrive.