by Heidi Green
October 31, 2012
It’s Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time when the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) strives to raise awareness about Down syndrome (DS), a genetic condition in which a baby is born with a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include both mental and physical delays. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition, affecting about 1 in every 691 babies born in the United States each year.
Down syndrome cannot be prevented, but it can be detected during prenatal testing. Early detection means better preparation on the part of parents and health care providers. Some health problems associated with Down syndrome—congenital heart defects, gastrointestinal disorders, vision or hearing problems, thyroid problems—can be treated. Many resources are available to help children with Down syndrome, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and special education.
Just a few decades ago, the life expectancy for a baby with Down syndrome was just 25 years; today, thanks to better treatment of the health problems individuals with DS face, it’s 60 years. As NDSS explains, many people with Down syndrome lead fulfilling lives when they have the benefit of “quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends and the community.”
For one parent’s personal perspective on raising a child with Down syndrome, and the importance of community, see this site.
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