About T21 (Down syndrome)
The human body is made of cells; all cells contain a center, called a nucleus, in which genetic material is stored. This genetic material, known as genes, carries the codes responsible for all our inherited characteristics.
Genes are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Normally, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent.
In Down syndrome, however, the cells usually contain not 46, but 47 chromosomes; with the extra chromosome being a number 21. This excess genetic material, in the form of additional genes along the 21st chromosome, results in Down syndrome.
Because 95 percent of all cases of Down syndrome occur because there are three copies of the 21st chromosome, it is referred to as "trisomy 21."
Chromosomes may be studied by examining blood or tissue cells. Individual chromosomes are identified, stained and numbered from largest to smallest. The visual display of the chromosomes is known as a karyotype.
Myths and Truths about Down syndrome
Myth: Down syndrome is a rare genetic disorder.
Truth: Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring genetic condition. One in every 800 to 1,000 live births is a child with Down syndrome, representing approximately 5,000 births per year in the United States alone. Today, Down syndrome affects more than 350,000 people in the United States.
Myth: Most children with Down syndrome are born to older parents.
Truth: Eighty percent of children born with Down syndrome are born to women younger than 35-years-old. However, the incidence of births of children with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother.
Myth: People with Down syndrome are severely retarded.
Truth: Most people with Down syndrome have IQs that fall in the mild to moderate range of retardation. Children with Down syndrome are definitely educable and educators and researchers are still discovering the full educational potential of people with Down syndrome.
Myth: Most people with Down syndrome are institutionalized.
Truth: Today people with Down syndrome live at home with their families and are active participants in the educational, vocational, social and recreational activities of the community. They are integrated into the regular education system, and take part in sports, camping, music, art programs and all the other activities of their communities. In addition, they are socializing with people with and without disabilities, and as adults are obtaining employment and living in group homes and other independent housing arrangements.
Myth: Parents will not find community support in bringing up their child with Down syndrome.
Truth: In almost every community of the United States there are parent support groups and other community organizations directly involved in providing services to families of individuals with Down syndrome.
Myth: Children with Down syndrome must be placed in segregated special education programs.
Truth: Children with Down syndrome have been included in regular 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 in the abilities of the individual; but the trend is for full inclusion in the social and educational life of the community.
Myth: Adults with Down syndrome are unemployable.
Truth: 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 jobs enthusiasm, reliability and dedication.
Myth: People with Down syndrome are always happy.
Truth: People with Down syndrome have feelings just like everyone else in the population. They respond to positive expressions of friendship and they are hurt and upset by inconsiderate behavior.
Myth: Adults with Down syndrome are unable to form close interpersonal relationships leading to marriage.
Truth: People with Down syndrome date, socialize and form ongoing relationships. Some are beginning to marry. Women with Down syndrome can and do have children, but there is a 50 percent chance that their child will have Down syndrome. Men with Down syndrome are believed to be sterile, with only one documented instance of a male with Down syndrome who has fathered a child.
Myth: Down syndrome can never be cured.
Truth: Research on Down syndrome is making great strides in identifying the genes on chromosome 21 that cause the characteristics of Down syndrome. Scientists now feel strongly that it will be possible to improve, correct or prevent many of the problems associated with Down syndrome in the future.
People with Down syndrome in Society
People with Down syndrome are people first. They may have some of the characteristics generally associated with this condition, but they are overwhelmingly unique and must be treated as individuals. Over the past few decades, beginning with Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, continuing with The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 and culminating with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1991, people with Down syndrome have been granted equal protections under federal law.
Ensuring equal treatment and access to services is a struggle that every family of a child with Down syndrome faces. Daily, these individuals strive to accomplish the same goals as everyone else: self-fulfillment, pride in their achievements, inclusion in the activities of the community and the challenge of reaching their full potential.
Daily, people with Down syndrome venture out into the community: to schools, jobs and leisure activities. Some live with family, some with friends and some independently. They form ongoing interpersonal relationships and some may marry. Women with Down syndrome are fertile and can have children.
The opportunities available to people with Down syndrome today have never been greater. However, it is only through the collective efforts of parents, professionals and concerned citizens that acceptance is becoming widespread. It is the goal of the National Down Syndrome Society to ensure that all people with Down syndrome are provided the opportunity to achieve their full potential in all aspects of community life.