Down Syndrome Awareness Month
The month of October is important for many reasons; one of which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
I work 1:1 with a student who continues to teach me so much about having an extra chromosome. He’s the most mannerly child I’ve ever met and I enjoy every opportunity he gets to make a difference in my SPED journey!
But what is Down Syndrome?
Down Syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional chromosome alters the normal development of the fetus and causes the characteristics associated with Down Syndrome. The common physical traits that may identify a child or person with Down Syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature and an upward slant to the eyes.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, there are quite a bit of myths regarding this abnormality. Below is an adapted list from the site. You can read this and more here.
MYTH: Down syndrome is a rare disorder.
TRUTH: Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition.
MYTH: Down syndrome is hereditary and runs in families.
TRUTH: Translocation, a type of Down syndrome that accounts for 3 to 4% of all cases, is the only type of Down syndrome known to have a hereditary component. Of those, one third (or 1% of all cases of Down syndrome) are hereditary.
MYTH: Most children with Down syndrome are born to older parents.
TRUTH: Most children with Down syndrome are born to women younger than 35 years old. The likelihood of having a child with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother, especially after age 35.
MYTH: All people with Down syndrome have a severe cognitive disability.
TRUTH: Most people with Down syndrome have a mild to moderate cognitive disability, or intellectual disability. This is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses.
MYTH: People with Down syndrome are always sick.
TRUTH: Though people with Down syndrome are at an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, and thyroid conditions, advances in health care and treatment of these conditions have allowed for most individuals with Down syndrome to lead healthy lives.
MYTH: Segregated special education programs are the only option for students with Down syndrome.
TRUTH: Students with Down syndrome are included in typical academic classrooms in schools across the country. The current trend in education is for full inclusion in social and educational settings. Sometimes students with Down syndrome are included in specific courses, while in other situations students are fully included in the typical classroom for all subjects. Increasingly, individuals with Down syndrome graduate from high school with diplomas, and participate in post-secondary academic and college programs.
I will intervene here. Though this information is from a US based site, as an Educational Psychologist in Barbados one currently in a school, I am able to say that it is becoming more common for most children to be included in a “typical” classroom setting. Though full inclusion is slowly but surely becoming accepted, once parents are aware of the services afforded to them, children with Down Syndrome can and will succeed in a mainstream classroom.
MYTH: People with Down syndrome are always happy.
TRUTH: People with Down syndrome have feelings just like anyone else. They experience the full range of emotions. They respond to positive expressions of friendship and are hurt and upset by inconsiderate behavior.
MYTH: Adults with Down syndrome are the same as children with Down syndrome.
TRUTH: Adults with Down syndrome are not children, and should not be considered children. They enjoy activities and companionship with other adults, and have similar needs and feelings as their typical peers.
MYTH: Adults with Down syndrome are unable to form close interpersonal relationships leading to marriage.
TRUTH: People with Down syndrome socialize and have meaningful friendships. Some choose to date, maintain ongoing relationships and marry.
I came across a television program on A&E called Born This Way. It follows the lives of seven adults with Down Syndrome and it is refreshing to watch. It shows how these adults do the above – have relationships, friendships…jobs. Take a look at an episode!
Love someone with Down Syndrome this month! Try to be more understanding of a person’s differences.