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.
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.
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:
- Almond-shaped eyes which slant upwards
- Flattened appearance to the face
- Small ears
- Shorter height
- Small hands, with a deep crease across the palm
- A tongue that sticks out
Also people with Down syndrome are more likely to develop other health problems, such as hearing problems, poor eyesight, ear infections, and heart defects.
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.
- Chris Burke is a professional actor, who starred in the popular show Life Goes On.
Chris Burke, an individual with Down Syndrome, has had a successful career as a professional actor.
- Christian Royal has his own pottery studio in Charleston, South Carolina. Here he creates beautiful dishes and jewelry that people are eager to purchase.
- Joey Moss helps to manage a professional Canadian ice hockey team, the Oilers. In 2015, he was inducted into the Alberta Sport's Hall of Fame because of his assistance to the team.
- Melissa Reilly has won the gold medal in skiing, swimming, and bicycling at the Special Olympics. She is also invited around the country to come speak about life with Down syndrome and inspire others. Currently, she is an intern for a state senator.
In summary, Down syndrome is a genetic condition that results in specific physical traits and limited intellectual abilities. The majority of Down syndrome cases are caused by a person having three copies of chromosome 21 or Trisomy 21. People with Down syndrome may have flatter faces, slanted eyes, small ears and be shorter in height. Finally, individuals with Down syndrome can accomplish a great deal, inspiring all people to work hard and achieve their dreams!
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