What is Down syndrome?
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when a person has a third copy of chromosome 21. Down syndrome can be diagnosed prenatally through genetic testing, as well as after birth by recognizing certain physical traits and subsequent genetic testing. Down syndrome affects people of all ethnicities and economic backgrounds and is more common among children born to older mothers.
What types of challenges do people with Down syndrome face?
People born with Down syndrome are more susceptible than the average person to certain medical conditions including heart defects, intestinal defects, leukemia, and thyroid problems. Additionally, people with Down syndrome tend to age prematurely, leading to more health problems, including vision, hearing, and memory loss. Before innovations in modern medicine, these health problems led to many early and untimely deaths in people with Down syndrome. Today, the majority of people with Down syndrome live into at least their sixties, compared to 1910 when the average expected survival age was just nine years old.
People with Down syndrome also face cognitive challenges. However, not all people with Down syndrome have the same level of cognitive impairments. Some people with Down syndrome have relatively mild delays while others have moderate or severe delays. These challenges can lead to discrimination in the workplace, as well as in larger society, and difficulties in the classroom.
What kinds of things can people with Down syndrome do?
As the life expectancy for people with Down syndrome continues to increase, it is becoming increasingly important for the general public to become more aware and educated about this condition and the people that it affects.
Despite their cognitive delays, most people with Down syndrome can do many of the same things that other people do. Children with Down syndrome may go to school with unaffected children, and many children with Down syndrome even graduate high school. Many adults with Down syndrome work in jobs in their community while either living at home or in other supportive living arrangements.
Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works