During the 1980s, the National Down Syndrome Society designated the month of October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month in order to bring awareness and education to a condition that was, until then, considered to be nothing more than a disability. Today, almost 40 years later, during the month of October we celebrate a world that is more aware of the abilities possessed by those with Down Syndrome. However, even though enormous steps have been taken down the road to full awareness and acceptance, there is still a lot of work left to be done, which is why we must forge ahead with more enthusiasm than ever before. In this post, Ira Riklis explains some common misconceptions regarding Down Syndrome.
Down Syndrome: Facts Vs Fiction
One of the biggest reasons why Down Syndrome Awareness Month is so important is the number of myths still surrounding those who have it. October is about striving to achieve a point of complete acceptance and knowledge surrounding this condition, and that can be achieved by dispelling these misconceptions, of which some of the most common are:
Down Syndrome is hereditary. – This is false. Even though Down Syndrome is a chromosomal condition, it is not actually hereditary, although one rare form of Down Syndrome, which accounts for about 1% of all cases and is known as Translocation, can be inherited.
Down Syndrome is a rare condition. – False. Down Syndrome is one of the most common conditions of its type, with approximately 6,000 babies born every year with Down Syndrome in the United States.
Children with Down Syndrome are only born to older parents. – Although the odds of having a child with Down Syndrome increase with the age of the mother, the reality is that the large majority of children with this condition were born to women younger than 35 years.
People with Down Syndrome are severely disabled. – While most people with Down Syndrome have some form of cognitive or intellectual disability, the truth is they are incredibly talented individuals with a wide range of strengths and abilities, and it is just a matter of being considerate and patient about the time it can take them to fulfill certain tasks.
People with Down Syndrome are sickly. – Even though those with Down Syndrome are more at risk for congenital heart defects, together with respiratory and hearing conditions, medical advancements now give them the possibility to lead longer and healthier lives than ever before.
There is nothing more to know about Down Syndrome; we already know it all. – Another myth that is commonly regarded as true. Medical research into the individual genes found in chromosome 21 continues to discover the multiple ways in which people with Down Syndrome are affected. Geneticists and other scientists now know enough to affirm that one day we will be able to correct or prevent many of the problems presented by those with this condition.
People with Down Syndrome will never be productive members of their community. – As we gain more knowledge about the condition, we have found that those with Down Syndrome are not only important contributors to society, they also actively participate in a number of educational and recreational activities, including a wide range of sports and artistic programs.
People with Down Syndrome are unable to hold down a job. – This common myth is being slowly dispelled as more and more people with Down Syndrome participate in the financial life of their community by working at banks, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and even going so far as to establish and manage their own businesses in some cases.
People with Down Syndrome cannot, and should not, marry. – Those with Down Syndrome are capable of forming long-lasting and meaningful relationships. They are able to experience emotions just like you and I, including falling in love and wanting to spend their lives with another person. There is no real reason for them not to marry and be happy just like everybody else.
While we still have a lot to learn about Down Syndrome, and the road ahead is long, the time has come to make people more aware and better educated on what we do know. Those with Down syndrome, even though they may have difficulties in certain areas, can be productive and competent members of society, and can also enrich our lives in ways we never suspected possible. So let’s help them on their journey by raising awareness as we celebrate those abilities that make them valued members of our society.