What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by having an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. It can affect development and physical traits, but every person with Down syndrome is unique. About 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome each year in the US, and there are over 250,000 individuals living with it. With proper education and support, people with Down syndrome can achieve their full potential.


More Info from CDC New England Journal of medicine
Guidelines for Interacting with Individuals with Down syndrome:
  1. Celebrate and congratulate parents on the birth of a baby with Down syndrome, just like you would with any other baby. Compliment the baby's appearance, mentioning resemblances to family members. Avoid saying "I'm sorry" as pity isn't helpful, but love and acceptance are meaningful.

  2. Address people with Down syndrome directly as you would with anyone else. Recognize that speech delays may be present but treat them with respect. Engage in conversations, and inquire about their interests, such as favorite sports or activities. Many individuals with Down syndrome work, so ask about their job or hobbies. Common ground can be found!

  3. Emphasize person-first language, such as "a woman with Down syndrome" or "a young boy with Down syndrome."Avoid referring to individuals with Down syndrome as "Down's baby," "Down's girl," or "Down syndrome man." 

  4. Do not use terms like "suffers from," "is afflicted by," or "is a victim of" Down syndrome. Down syndrome is not an illness or disease but a genetic condition. Check pictures on this website to understand that individuals with Down syndrome lead fulfilling lives.

  5. Using outdated and derogatory terms like "retard," "retarded," or "mongoloid" is completely inappropriate. These words devalue individuals with Down syndrome based on their characteristics. Instead, use respectful language that highlights their worth. Also, when referring to people without Down syndrome, use terms like "typical" or "typically developing" instead of "normal."

Remember, being different isn't bad; it just means being unique.

Breaking down myths

Down syndrome is caused by having an extra copy of chromosome 21, leading to developmental differences and associated characteristics. There are three types: trisomy 21, translocation, and mosaicism. It is the most common chromosomal condition, affecting approximately 1 in every 772 babies in the US. It occurs across races and economic levels, with an increased risk related to maternal age. While there is a higher likelihood of certain medical conditions, many are treatable, allowing individuals with Down syndrome to lead healthy lives.

Common physical traits include low muscle tone, small stature, upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease in the palm, but each person is unique. Life expectancy has significantly increased to 60 years. People with Down syndrome participate in education, work, decision-making, relationships, voting, and contribute to society in various ways. Though cognitive delays may be present, individuals possess strengths and talents. Quality education, supportive environments, healthcare, and community support enable fulfilling and productive lives.

Preferred Language Guide

Words can either create barriers - or they can break down those barriers
  • A “person with a disability”, not a “disabled person”
  • A “child with Down syndrome”, not a “Downs child”

An individual with Down syndrome is an individual first and foremost and has many other qualities and attributes that can be used to describe them. To assume all people have the same characteristics or abilities is demeaning.

  • A person “has” Down syndrome, not “suffers from” Down syndrome
  • A person “with” cerebral palsy, not “afflicted with” cerebral palsy
  • A person “uses a wheelchair”, is not “wheelchair-bound”
  • A child “receives special education services”, is not “in special ed”
  • A “cognitive disability” or “intellectual disability” is preferred over “mentally retarded”
  • “Typically developing” or “typical” is preferred over “normal”
  • “Accessible” parking space or hotel room is preferred over “handicapped”