Down Syndrome Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rachel Torrens

Rachel obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Grove City College. She then earned her Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Nursing from Thomas Jefferson University. For over 8 years, Rachel has practiced as a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, and taught science to elementary aged students.

In this lesson, discover the definition of Down syndrome and the physical traits of people with this condition. Also, learn of some of the amazing achievements individuals with Down syndrome have accomplished!

What is Down Syndrome?

When you were born, you came into the world with certain traits. For example, you may have been born with blue eyes and brown hair. The genes contained within your cells carry the information that determines the traits you get. Your genes are found in chromosomes, and the majority of cells in your body have 23 pairs of chromosomes, one of each pair coming from your mother and one from your father. Each chromosome contains hundreds of genes.

Down syndrome is a condition, encoded within a person's genes, that is present from birth. About ninety-five percent of all Down syndrome cases are the result of having three copies of chromosome 21, also called Trisomy 21. So instead of having 46 chromosomes (23 pairs), a person with Down syndrome has 47 chromosomes because of the extra copy of chromosome 21.

Instead of having 2 copies of chromosome 21, a person with Down Syndrome has three copies.
Trisomy 21 diagram

It is important to understand that this extra copy of chromosome 21 happens due to random chance, meaning you don't get it from your parents. Currently, the average rate for Down syndrome is 1 in every 691 babies born, which is about 6,000 per year.

How Down Syndrome Affects Individuals

A person with Down syndrome usually has a specific physical appearance, as well as intellectual disabilities and some developmental delays. For example, it might take a baby with Down syndrome a little longer to walk and talk.

But, the affects from Down syndrome can vary widely from person to person. Meaning, some people with Down syndrome have mild impaired intellectual ability and physical features. Other individuals with Down syndrome may have more impaired thinking abilities and strong physical features.

Common traits of Down syndrome:

  1. Almond-shaped eyes which slant upwards
  2. Flattened appearance to the face
  3. Small ears
  4. Shorter height
  5. Small hands, with a deep crease across the palm
  6. A tongue that sticks out

This young boy has Down syndrome. Notice his almond-shaped eyes, flatter face, protruding tongue and smaller hands.
Boy with Down Syndrome

Also people with Down syndrome are more likely to develop other health problems, such as hearing problems, poor eyesight, ear infections, and heart defects.

Amazing Achievements

It is true that people with Down syndrome have specific characteristics, but this does not mean these people are limited in what they can accomplish! Most people with Down syndrome are able to attend school, and some even go to college. They are just as driven to succeed at what they do as you are.

All of the following individuals have Down syndrome and have achieved amazing things.

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