In the early 20th century, it is estimated that about 100,000 children were housed in institutions. Sadly, many of these children had Down syndrome and a short life expectancy. Much of this treatment was due to the lack of information and unfortunate misconceptions.

Through years of research, education and the dedication of passionate and caring health care professionals, parents and caregivers, those with Down syndrome now live rich, full lives. They are active participants in their families, schools and workplaces. With continued support, we can further the choices and opportunities for those with Down syndrome.

The best place to start is to have a basic understanding of what Down syndrome is, who is affected and the challenges these individuals face.

Q: What is Down syndrome?

A: Down syndrome is a genetic condition that results when a baby is born with three rather than the usual two copies of chromosome 21. Because there are three copies of chromosome 21, Down syndrome is also called “Trisomy 21.”

Q: What is the frequency of Down syndrome?

A: Down syndrome is the most frequently occurring chromosomal abnormality, occurring once in every 792 live births.

Q: How many people have Down syndrome?

A: It is estimated that 250,000 people nationwide have Down syndrome. About 4 million people throughout the world have Down syndrome.

Q: Does Down syndrome occur in specific people?

A: Down syndrome occurs equally in people of all ethnic, racial, religious and socio-economic groups.

Q: Is age a factor in Down syndrome?

A: The rate of births of children with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother. While the age of the mother can be a factor, 80% of children with Down syndrome are born to parents under the age of 35.

Q: Are people with Down syndrome at increased risk for certain medical conditions?

A: Yes, people with Down syndrome have increased health risks.

  • Approximately 40% to 60% of infants with Down syndrome have a congenital heart defects.
  • Low muscle tone is common in people with Down syndrome. This may result in delayed gross motor development like crawling, walking and also constipation and gastro esophageal reflux.
  • Those with Down syndrome are also at greater risk for childhood leukemia, sleep apnea, thyroid conditions, Alzheimer’s diseases, and diabetes. Many of these conditions are treatable and most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.

Q: What are the characteristics of an individual with Down syndrome?

A: Common traits include low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant of the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm. While there are similarities among people with Down syndrome, each person is unique and may possess these characteristics to varying degrees or not at all.