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Learning About Down Syndrome

IS IT “DOWN’S” OR “DOWN” SYNDROME? Down syndrome was named after Dr. John Langdon Down, an English physician who first defined the distinguishing features of Trisomy 21 in 1866. People now use the term ―Down Syndrome and not Down’s Syndrome because Dr. Down did not have Down Syndrome or own it.

WHAT IS DOWN SYNDROME? For an unexplained reason in cell development, each cell will have 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. In Down Syndrome there is an additional 21st chromosome, resulting in the identification of Trisomy 21. This extra genetic material causes changes in the development of the body and brain, as well as the physical characteristics and delayed physical, intellectual and language development associated with Down Syndrome. MORE ALIKE THAN DIFFERENT People with Down syndrome are more like their typically developing peers than they are different. There is great diversity within the population in terms of personality, intelligence, appearance, humor, learning styles, compassion, compliance and attitude. Although persons with Down syndrome may share characteristics and similarities in appearance, children with Down syndrome will look more like their family members than they do one another. They will have a full range of emotions and attitudes, are creative and imaginative in play, and grow up to live independent lives with varying degrees of support and accommodations. Individuals with Down Syndrome will establish friendships, pursue interests and be included in community activities. Children with Down syndrome benefit from the same care, attention, and inclusion in community life that help every student grow. As with all children, quality education in neighborhood schools, preschools, and at home is important to provide the opportunities needed to develop strong academic and social skills. FACTS ABOUT DOWN SYNDROME

  • Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality in humans.

  • Down syndrome occurs in every 600-800 live births, and is not related to race, nationality, religion or socio-economic status.

  • While the age of the mother can be a factor, 80% of people with Down syndrome are born to parents under the age of 35, with the average age being 26.

  • Down syndrome occurs in males and females equally.

  • Nothing that a parent did or did not do during the pregnancy causes a baby to have Down syndrome.

THE FUTURE FOR CHILDREN WITH DOWN SYNDROME Individuals with Down syndrome have more opportunities than ever before. As young people with Down Syndrome are now showing what they can accomplish with the support of their families, friends and communities, and as they integrate mainstream programs, more and more doors open for others. We have seen TV series starring talented actors with Down syndrome. Two young men have authored a book, “Count Us in: Growing up with Down Syndrome”, and have impressed audiences around the country at book signings and on talk shows. Honor Thy Son, a fast paced mystery by Lou Shaw, features two characters with Down syndrome who are portrayed as young adults. Another young man with Down syndrome was the winner of the 1996 Best Actor award at Cannes. John C. McGinley, an actor on the popular comedy show Scrubs, has a son with Down syndrome and has become an advocate for Down Syndrome and the spokesperson for the Buddy Walk as well, an event that raises awareness for Down syndrome. Along with these shining examples, thousands of people with Down syndrome across the world are quietly going on with their lives without fame or fanfare. They are transforming their communities by just being there. They have dreams and the determination to reach their goals. They learn in regular classrooms in their neighborhood schools with the children who will one day be their coworkers, neighbors and adult friends. Young adults hold diverse and meaningful jobs, maintain their own households and make significant contributions to their communities every day. Myths about Down Syndrome For individuals with Down syndrome, success in the community and workplace as adults requires the opportunity to continue to grow and learn in the regular classroom with educational support, along with those who will later be their coworkers and neighbors. Therefore, it is important to dismiss the myths associated with Down Syndrome and recognize that their social, emotional and educational needs are mostly the same as those of other children. Here are some MYTHS about Down Syndrome. PEOPLE WITH DOWN SYNDROME HAVE SEVERE MENTAL INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES. Standard IQ tests will score students with Down syndrome in the mild to moderate range of mental intellectual disabilities.

However, these tests do not measure many important areas of intelligence, and you will often be surprised by their memory, insight, creativity and cleverness. The high rates of learning disabilities in students with Down syndrome often mask an array of abilities and talents. Educators and researchers are still discovering the full educational potential of people with Down syndrome. ADULTS WITH DOWN SYNDROME ARE UNEMPLOYABLE. 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. PEOPLE WITH DOWN SYNDROME ARE ALWAYS HAPPY. People with Down syndrome have feelings just like everyone else in the population. They respond to positive expressions of friendship and are hurt and upset by inconsiderate behavior. ADULTS WITH DOWN SYNDROME ARE UNABLE TO FORM CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS LEADING TO MARRIAGE. People with Down syndrome date, socialize, and form ongoing relationships. Many do find a compatible spouse and get married and have families. STUDENTS AND INDIVIDUALS WITH DOWN SYNDROME ARE STUBBORN. A student with Down syndrome may not be able to tell you how she feels. This can lead to the false perception that she is ―stubborn. Behavior is communication. Consider all of the circumstances. Is your student experiencing sensory or communication difficulties? BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS AND DEPRESSION ARE JUST PART OF HAVING DOWN SYNDROME. Often, medical or mental health problems go untreated due to the assumption that it is typical of this genetic condition. Complete examinations by appropriate health care professionals should always be pursued. CHILDREN WITH DOWN SYNDROME STOP LEARNING Learning is a lifelong experience for people with Down syndrome, just like everyone. Individuals with Down syndrome learn at a slower pace but nonetheless, continue to learn. THERE ARE NO EFFECTIVE TREATMENTS FOR DOWN SYNDROME. 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. Particularly encouraging is the recent establishment of the Stanford Center for Research and Treatment of Down Syndrome, whose mission is to conduct research and develop treatments related to the cognitive disabilities related to Down syndrome. CHILDREN WITH DOWN SYNDROME WILL NEVER GROW UP TO BE INDEPENDENT. Parents and society are coming to understand the aspirations of persons with Down syndrome to participate in all aspects of community life: education, recreation, employment, social and family life. HAVING A SIBLING WITH DOWN SYNDROME WILL BE A HARDSHIP FOR YOUR “TYPICAL”CHILDREN. Most families report that their ―typical‖ kids are more compassionate, patient and tolerant of all people because of the experience of having a sibling with Down syndrome. The sibling relationship is generally a typical one — full of love, occasional arguments and just being together. People with Down Syndrome deserve all the opportunities that other people have. Such as, the right to go to school and graduate; to have the right to work and earn an income and the right to get married and have a family. Many people with Down Syndrome can function in society like everyone else. However, they need the opportunity to be able to shine.

Dr. Kawthar Hameed Abdullah is an educational psychologist and special educational specialist. She holds a Ed.D in both educational psychology and special education. She has over 25 years experience working with children with different educational, intellectual and emotional challenges.


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