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Canadian National Down Syndrome Week!

It’s Canadian Down Syndrome Week! Let’s start off by answering a few questions.

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition that affects the physical, and in many cases, the cognitive development of those who have it. In the typical development of a human, each cell contains 23 chromosomes from each parent for a total of 46. A person with Down syndrome has an extra set of Chromosome 21 in some or each of their cells. Down syndrome is often called Trisomy 21 because of the extra chromosome.

Does having Down syndrome mean cognitive impairment?

The cognitive abilities of people with Down syndrome can vary. Impairment can be mild to moderate, or none at all. People with Down syndrome live typical, happy lives and succeed in their goals and dreams.

Is Down syndrome a disease?

No! Down syndrome is a life-long condition and not an illness or a disease that can be treated or cured. People with Down syndrome, however, can be more susceptible to illnesses that can be treated.

What causes Down syndrome?

Current knowledge can’t identify all factors as to why some people are born with an extra chromosome. One factor that appears to have an influence is the age of the mother. Experts find an increased risk of Down syndrome if the mother is over the age of 35. To date, there is no known environmental factors that influence whether Down syndrome is present in a fetus.

How common is Down syndrome?

Currently, about 1 in every 750 births in Canada result in a person with Down syndrome.

Where did the name ‘Down Syndrome’ come from?

Despite ‘down’ being a somewhat negative word, it had nothing to do with the condition itself, but rather the doctor who identified it.  In the 1800’s a physician by the name of John Langdon Down was the first to truly identify the condition. It has since been known as Down syndrome. It wasn’t always that way. Before Down labeled the condition based on his name, he referred the condition as ‘Mongolism’. It stemmed from his belief at the time that people with Down syndrome or other conditions could be classified based on ethnic descriptions. He felt people with Down syndrome had similar features to those from Mongolia, so he termed them ‘Mongoloids’. Even back then this was considered derogatory. It has taken years to rid our lexicon of the term ‘mongoloid’ to describe people with Down syndrome or used as a bad name to call others. Thankfully it’s hardly ever heard these days.

For a lot more great information and content, check out the Canadian Down Syndrome Society’s website.