Down Syndrome #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone. I am once again late writing my contribution to the #AtoZChallenge, but it’s still Wednesday in my neck of the woods. For my letter D post, I want to talk about Down Syndrome. When I first heard about it, I had many misconceptions about it. I saw it as the standard form of intellectual disability and only knew people with relatively mild intellectual disabilities who had this condition. Let me set the facts straight.

First, there are three different types of Down Syndrome. About 95% of those affected have what most know as classic Down Syndrome, ie. trisomy 21. Another 3% of affected individuals have Down Syndrome due to a translocated extra chromosome 21. This means that their extra chromosome (or part of it) is attached to another chromosome. I remember first learning about translocations in a play about bioethics in high school we had to watch for philosophy. The third type is mosaicism, in which a person has three copies of chromosome 21 in some but not all of their cells. These people might have milder symptoms than those with the other two types.

That being said, according to the American CDC, most people with Down Syndrome will have a mild to moderate intellectual disability. This may be so, but in reality, Down Syndrome individuals span the full gamut of intelligence, from near-average to profoundly intellectually disabled. It is impossible to predict the severity of an individual’s disability at birth (let alone prenatally, should the expecting mother decide to test for trisomy 21). However, like I said yesterday, even if someone turns out profoundly disabled, it doesn’t mean they can’t express themselves.

At my old care home, there were four clients with Down Syndrome, three of them nonspeaking and thought to be profoundly intellectually disabled. At least one of them had additional health problems common in Down Syndrome. These health problems include congenital heart defects (which this woman had), hearing loss and ear infections, an increased risk of obesity, and obstructive sleep apnea.

The life expectancy of people with Down Syndrome has increased significantly over the years. Currently, many people with the condition live to age sixty. The client with Down Syndrome at my old care home who can speak, will be fifty in August. He does have some issues, so please all send out positive vibes that he’ll still be well enough, as I’ve more or less promised him and the staff that I’ll visit for his birthday.

9 thoughts on “Down Syndrome #AtoZChallenge

    1. I didn’t know this either until looking up info online for this blog post. I mean, I’d known about translocation but the people in the play didn’t explain the technicalities.


  1. I have noticed more adults with Down Syndrome in my community as I grow older. I hope that you get to celebrate with your friend on his 50th birthday. That’s a terrific milestone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, more people with Down Syndrome get well into adulthood than several decades ago. On the other hand, fewer children are born with the condition due to advances in prenatal testing and hence the fact that many expecting parents choose to abort. I really hope I’ll get to celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday with him too. I was a little worried initially that, because of his severe intellectual disability, he’d forget who I was when I moved away last October, but I video-called him via a staff member about a month ago and he clearly did remember me.


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