There are many misconceptions about people with Down syndrome. These misconceptions are largely a result of two contributing factors: (1) the syndrome itself has changed so fundamentally (for the better) with the dismantling of the inhumane institutions where people with Down syndrome were previously forced to live, and
(2) the lack of medical and basic scientific research makes it difficult to get accurate, updated information about people with Down syndrome.
The (GLOBAL) Foundation for Global Down Syndrome is dedicated to providing funding for research that will better address the cognitive and medical issues associated with the condition, as well as correcting misconceptions over time.
According to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is an increased likelihood of younger mothers giving birth to children with Down syndrome. The research shows that the chances of having a baby with Down syndrome increase with age. Approximately 80% of children born with Down syndrome are born to women younger than 35 years old.
Myth: Having a child with Down syndrome will destroy a marriage.
The largest study to date, published in the American Association of Intellectual Disabilities, included 647 families who have children with Down syndrome.
Misunderstanding: A child with Down syndrome has a detrimental effect on their siblings.
Studies have shown that siblings who have documented increased awareness and compassion typically contrast with their siblings. In fact, some mental health professionals point to the psychological advantages of caring for a child within the family circle. For example, a recent study published in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research found no long-term detrimental effects. The reality is that not providing support for a child with Down syndrome can have a negative impact on siblings.
The typical lifespan for an individual with Down syndrome is approximately 60 years. Certain individuals with Down syndrome have reached their 80s.
Misunderstanding: Individuals with Down syndrome have a shorter life expectancy.
This shocking statistic warrants the complete focus of our government and scientific community. The average life expectancy for an African-American in the U.S. With Down syndrome is only 35 years old. It is true that their typical counterparts have a shorter average lifespan. However, there are individuals with Down syndrome who have lived into their 80s. On average, a person with Down syndrome has a life expectancy of nearly 60 years old.
Misunderstanding: Individuals with Down syndrome are incapable of walking or participating in sports.
The Special Olympics provides opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome to participate in sports teams all over the world. Just like typical people, those with Down syndrome have a variety of athletic abilities and levels of agility. GLOBAL’s “Dare to Play” camps offer sports opportunities that build a foundation for sports aptitude and it is important for individuals with Down syndrome to receive early physical therapy to ensure proper walking. However, it is not a characteristic of Down syndrome to be unable to walk.
Myth: Individuals with Down syndrome are unable to read or write.
Learning how to effectively teach children with Down syndrome is a topic that requires more research. Research shows that the most effective teaching of reading to children with Down syndrome occurs when teachers are well-trained and have high expectations for their students’ progress. The majority of children with Down syndrome can learn to read and write, which is a reality.
Misunderstanding: Individuals with Down syndrome are unable to attend mainstream public schools.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stipulates that all children with disabilities must have access to free, appropriate public education that meets their unique needs and prepares them for independent living and employment. This requirement is outlined in the IDEA Act, which mandates that public schools in the United States must provide and accept appropriate education for them. It is not only advisable but also a reality that schools in the U.S. Are legally obligated to provide and accept appropriate education for children with Down syndrome.
Additionally, research indicates that the inclusion of students with disabilities in the classroom enhances the academic advancement of students without disabilities.
Myth: Individuals with Down syndrome are incapable of experiencing pain.
People with Down syndrome should receive the same pain-control procedures as typical individuals, even if there are no clear indications of pain. According to a study published in the medical journal Lancet in 2000, parents and guardians should advocate for the understanding that individuals with Down syndrome may express pain more slowly and with less precision compared to others. It is important to recognize that people with Down syndrome do experience pain, even if their reaction to it is not always obvious.
Misunderstanding: All individuals with Down syndrome have a similar appearance.
Many people share common features, but not all. Not many people have almond-shaped eyes like those with Down syndrome. They tend to look more like their families, with a short stature. They look more like each other than they do to others.
Misunderstanding: Every individual with Down syndrome is obese.
In accordance with a study published in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, individuals with Down syndrome, both women and men, are more prone to being overweight or obese compared to the average population. While further research is required to determine the exact extent of obesity in relation to the average population, there is a correlation between Down syndrome and obesity. Nevertheless, it is important to note that not all individuals with Down syndrome are overweight.
It is important for everyone to exercise and eat properly. This means that individuals with Down syndrome need to burn off the same number of calories as a typical child, but at a lower metabolic rate. Research also suggests that both the thyroid and metabolic rate are lower in individuals with Down syndrome, which contributes to burning fewer calories.
Misunderstanding: Every individual with Down syndrome will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
A study conducted in 1989 indicated that 20-55% of people with Down syndrome will develop symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. Numerous studies have shown that virtually 100% of people with Down syndrome will have tangles and plaques in their brains associated with Alzheimer’s disease, although it is not necessarily the actual symptomatic disease. This information was published in the Developmental Disabilities Journal of New Zealand and Australia in 1993 by Zigman et al. (Pages 241-255).
It is evident that this is an important area of research for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation and people with Alzheimer’s and Down syndrome.
Misunderstanding: Individuals with Down syndrome are unable to conceive offspring.
It is important to note that there have been a handful of documented instances where men with Down syndrome have fathered children. According to older studies, men with Down syndrome are infertile and are being reinvestigated. Women with Down syndrome, on the other hand, can give birth and are fertile. It’s a true reality that a person with Down syndrome may have significant challenges in raising a child.
A growing number of adults with Down syndrome in the U.S. Are living autonomously with minimal support from relatives or the government. A small portion are capable of living completely self-sufficiently.
Misunderstanding: Adults with Down syndrome are incapable of living autonomously or securing employment.
Some students who graduate from high school and go on to attend post-secondary education have Down syndrome. A small percentage of these students are able to live independently. The number of adults with Down syndrome in the U.S. Who are able to live independently is increasing, although they may still require some assistance from their family members or the state.
Some employers have reported higher levels of satisfaction among co-workers who have Down syndrome, and it is anecdotally known that people with Down syndrome can be excellent workers. Today, there are more opportunities available for employment and education than ever before.