Down syndrome FAQs

Down syndrome FAQs

Down syndrome FAQs

What is the outlook for Down syndrome?

Survival rates and quality of life have significantly improved in recent years. Many children didn’t make their 10th birthdays until the early 1960s. In 2007, the average individual with Down syndrome lived to around the age of 47. Now the average life expectancy age is around 60.

Those who were born with congenital defects or who have developed a variety of associated health problems are at higher risk for health problems and the need for medical intervention. In general, if an individual’s overall health is well monitored and their overall condition optimally maintained, he or she can live a long and richly satisfying life.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about Down syndrome?

  • Down syndrome is a rare condition: As a chromosomal condition, Down syndrome is more commonly seen. Estimated cases stand at between 1 in 1 000 and 1 in 1 100 live births across the world. Each year between 3 000 and 5 000 infants are born with Down syndrome, worldwide. Of these 80% will have hearing problems and up to 45% will be born with congenital heart problems. Translocation as a type of Down syndrome, is rare, however and accounts for between 3% and 4% of all cases.
  • Most children with Down syndrome are born to older parents: Younger women who have had many children (under the age of 35) have higher statistical numbers, up to 75% of children with Down syndrome are born to younger women, than to older men and women. Older women and men are however, at increased risk of having a baby with Down syndrome (and the risk continues to increase with age) than younger individuals.
  • Little girl with down syndrome showing a range of emotions and feelings.Adults with Down syndrome are the same as children with the condition: No adult with Down syndrome should be considered ‘a child’. An individual with Down syndrome is not incapable of developing physically, mentally or emotionally. The difference, to a large extent, is in pace. Children and adults with Down syndrome have the same range of emotion (full range of feelings), responding to positive expression and inconsiderate behaviours, and can enjoy everything their peers are capable of (with or without a disability).
  • All individuals with Down syndrome have severe cognitive disability and are always sick: Intellectual disability is not always severe in most individuals with Down syndrome. Cognitive disability merely means that learning capacity is impaired and more time and patience is required to learn, understand and remember. It does not serve as an indicator for how many strengths and talents an individual may lack in comparison to others. It can take some time for an individual with Down syndrome to say and do things, but their disability does not render them incapable. Illness may be frequent for those with Down syndrome as individuals are at increased risk for certain medical problems. Medical advancements have made it far easier for proper health care and treatment to prevent serious concerns and conditions. Nowadays, it is far easier to monitor and maintain optimal health for an individual with Down syndrome.
  • Separate special education is best for a child with Down syndrome: In many cases, a child with Down syndrome fares better with a combination of mainstream schooling (typical academic classroom / learning environments) and additional special needs classes. A child may be able to keep up with some mainstream classroom subjects, but require specific additional teaching methods for help with others. Full inclusion in both educational and social settings has been proven to benefit a child with Down syndrome. Many are fully capable of attaining high school graduation certificates, as well as from post-secondary / tertiary academic institutions (university and college).
  • Individuals with Down syndrome cannot be self-sufficient or active members of society: This may only prove true if individuals were neglected in childhood and not sufficiently cared for and encouraged through the stages of growing up. If surrounded by appropriate care and encouraged to live independently, individuals with Down syndrome can lead fully functional lives and be active participants in recreational, educational and social activities. Individuals can achieve in just the same manner as their peers through a typical education system and participate in social engaging activities. There is no reason an individual with Down syndrome cannot live a meaningful existence and contribute to society.

Young man with down syndrome working as a pilot.

  • Adults with Down syndrome are not employable: Individuals with Down syndrome can effectively hold jobs in a variety of different industries, such as finance, corporations, hospitality, nursing homes and hospitals, entertainment, childcare, sports, computers, restaurants and more. Whatever peak’s an individual’s interest, a person with Down syndrome can successfully apply themselves and gain the same amount of satisfaction from doing their jobs well.
  • An adult with Down syndrome can never marry: Like any other person, an individual with Down syndrome is fully capable of having close friendships, companions and interpersonal relationships, including one that leads to marriage.

What about having children?

Puberty for females tends to happen at around the same age. At least half of all females with Down syndrome experience normal menstruation, making them fertile and able to have a baby. Mother’s with Down syndrome are at risk of having a baby with trisomy 21 or some other developmental disability. The risk is between 35% and 50%.

Male fertility, is however, a little more limited, but it is not entirely clear to medical experts as yet, as to whether a child fathered by a man with Down syndrome is more likely to have a similar condition. Men with the condition do have a considerably lower fertility rate, however, than those of unaffected individuals of comparable ages and as such, may have difficulty fathering a child.

A father and daughter with down syndrome enjoying the outdoors.

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