Down Syndrome is a genetic condition found in one out of every 691 babies in the United States. Down Syndrome is typically caused by an error in cell division prior to or at conception that results an extra full or partial chromosome attaching to the 21st pair of chromosomes. As a result, Down Syndrome is clinically known as Trisomy 21, or sometimes T-21 for short. Although the risk of having a child with Down Syndrome increases with age, most children with Down Syndrome are born to mothers who are less than 35 years old. There is no known cause for Down Syndrome. Rather, Down Syndrome appears to be part of the natural variation we find in human beings.
Children with Down Syndrome typically experience some level of developmental delay when compared with typical peers and often have other medical conditions cause by their extra chromosome. Some of these medical conditions include congenital heart conditions, gastrointestinal abnormalities, hearing loss, speech apraxia, sleep disorders, feeding disorders and endocrine disorders. However, not all children will experience these conditions. Some may have many, while others may have few.
Up until the 1983, the life expectancy of an individual with Down Syndrome was only 25 years. However, with advances in medicine today, the life expectancy of individuals with Down Syndrome has increased dramatically, and individuals with Down Syndrome can be expected to live into their sixties.
The opportunities for individuals with Down Syndrome have also greatly improved. Today, many individuals with Down Syndrome attend college programs, live independently and maintain jobs alongside their typical peers. Inclusive classrooms are now promoted in schools so children can learn with their typical peers. Exposing typical children to children with Down Syndrome will hopefully make for an even more inclusive society in years to come.
Most of all, children with Down Syndrome are children first. They each have their own unique personality, just like typical children, they laugh and cry, just like typical children, and they want to love and be loved just as much as anyone else.