What is Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome was discovered in 1886 after Dr. J.L. Down, the man credited with first describing the disorder. Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal abnormality, resulting when an individual possesses three, rather than two, copies of the 21st chromosome. This excess genetic material affects a persons’s physical and cognitive development. People with Down syndrome will have some degree of Intellectual disability, usually in the mild to moderate range. There are three types of chromosomal patterns that result in Down syndrome, they are: Trisomy 21, Translocation and Mosaicism. There are many physical characteristics associated with Down syndrome such as beautiful, almond-shaped eyes, low muscle tone, sometimes protruding tongue, a flatter facial profile, as well as increased risk of certain medical conditions. Every person with Down syndrome is a unique individual, like anyone else, and will possess these characteristics to varying degrees. The important thing to remember is that people with Down Syndrome are “more alike than different” than the typical people around them.

For More information on the types of Down syndrome, please visit the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS)

How often does Down Syndrome occur?

Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring genetic condition. The occurrence of Down syndrome is universal across racial and gender lines, and it is present in approximately one in 800 births in Canada. Today, Down syndrome affects more than 40,634 people in Canada (2009). Eighty percent of children born with Down syndrome are born to women younger than 35 years old. However, as a women ages, her chance of conceiving a child with Down syndrome becomes greater.

Are there employment opportunities for adults with Down Syndrome?

Yes, businesses are seeking young adults with Down syndrome for a variety of positions. They are being employed in small and medium sized offices, by banks, corporations, nursing homes, hotels and restaurants. They work in the music and entertainment industry, in clerical positions, and in the computer industry. People with Down syndrome bring to their job enthusiasm, reliability and dedication.

Why is the myth that people with Down Syndrome are always happy?

People with Down syndrome have a wide range of feelings just like everyone else. They respond to positive expressions of friendship, and they are hurt and upset by inconsiderate behaviour.

What is the type of education received by children with Down Syndrome?

Children with Down syndrome have been included in typical academic classrooms in schools across the country. In some instances they are integrated into specific courses, while in other situations students are fully included in the regular classroom for all subjects. The degree of mainstreaming is based on the abilities of the individual and also depends a great deal on school preferences as each school is different; but the trend is for full inclusion in the social and educational life of the community.

What are some basic facts about Down Syndrome?

The medical name for Down syndrome is Trisomy 21. Down Syndrome occurs at conception and is not because of something the mother or father did or did not do during conception or pregnancy at all. It is unknown why Trisomy 21 occurs, regardless of race, religion, socio-economic level, or even age.

What causes Down Syndrome?

It is stated that 95% of all cases are caused by an error in cell division called nondisjunction. Few cases are caused by two other chromosomal abnormalities: mosaicism and translocation. The additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

How is Down Syndrome diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Down syndrome is usually picked up soon after the birth of the baby because of the way it looks. There are many physical characteristics associated with the condition, which may lead a parent, or medical professional to suspect that the baby has Down syndrome. Many of these features are found in the general population. Therefore a chromosome test would need to be done on the baby before a positive diagnosis could be made. Taking blood from the baby and then analyzing the chromosomes does this. The result is called a karyotype.

Why is the myth that more children are born to mothers over the age of 35?

Actually, 85% of children born with Down syndrome are to mothers under the age of 35 years of age. The reason the greater risk over age of 35 is because the statistics are higher in that age group as there are not as many women having babies over the age of 35.

Are there varying levels of Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome affects each child differently just like each typical child develops differently. Each child has their strengths and weaknesses in different areas.

There is no such thing as having a “bit” or a “touch” of Down Syndrome. A person either has it or they don’t. Whether a person looks like they have it or not is irrelevant.

Why is it so important to get involved in Up About Down?

Becoming involved in a support group allows you the opportunity for fellowship, to get resources and have questions answered by people that are in similar situations. There is nothing better than being surrounded by people that understand what you are going through. We encourage everyone to attend the different activities that we provide.

All of our members, and their families, are at different ages and stages of development in life; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We often turn to each other as resources for information, validation, comfort and support. Also, our children develop strong bonds with those in the community with similarities to themselves.