Down Syndrome Connection
of Anne Arundel County 

an affiliate of the arc of the central chesapeake

What is Down syndrome?

In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.

This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm – although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.

What Causes Down syndrome? 

Regardless of the type of Down syndrome a person may have, all people with Down syndrome have an extra, critical portion of chromosome 21 present in all or some of their cells. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

The cause of the extra full or partial chromosome is still unknown. Maternal age is the only factor that has been linked to an increased chance of having a baby with Down syndrome resulting from nondisjunction or mosaicism. However, due to higher birth rates in younger women, 80% of children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age.

There is no definitive scientific research that indicates that Down syndrome is caused by environmental factors or the parents’ activities before or during pregnancy.

The additional partial or full copy of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome can originate from either the father or the mother. Approximately 5% of the cases have been traced to the father.

Learn more from the National Down Syndrome Society (Source)

Did you know that most people with Down syndrome ...

• Live independently
• Are fully included in school
• Go to college
• Are employed as artists, actors, child care workers etc.
• Get married

Myth vs. Truth

Myth: Down syndrome is a rare genetic disorder. 
Truth: Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring genetic re-arrangement. One in every 800 to 1,000 live births is a child with Down syndrome.

Myth: Having a child with Down syndrome will be a burden on a family. 
Truth: Children with Down syndrome have many gifts and talents. They bring joy to their family’s lives and enhance the world. There are many families currently seeking to adopt children with Down syndrome.

Myth: All individuals with Down syndrome will have severe developmental or intellectual delays.
Truth: Most people with Down syndrome have cognitive delays that are mild to moderate. IQ is not an adequate measure of the functional status of people with Down syndrome. People with Down syndrome have great potential when given the opportunity to succeed.

Myth: Individuals born with Down syndrome do not experience full or productive lives.
Truth: Individuals with Down syndrome live at home with their families, in group homes or in homes of their own. They are integrated into the regular education system and are active participants in the vocational, social, religious and recreational activities of the community. Many individuals will go to college, work and lead meaningful lives.