October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. So, this week’s blogpost pays tribute to people with Down Syndrome who are accomplishing amazing things, as well as their families, teachers and therapists.
Here are some facts:According to the National Down Syndrome Society, “Trisomy 21 (nondisjunction) Down syndrome is usually caused by an error in cell division called "nondisjunction." Nondisjunction results in an embryo with three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two. Prior to or at conception, a pair of 21st chromosomes in either the sperm or the egg fails to separate.”
People with Down syndrome share certain physical characteristics including eyes that slant upwards, low muscle tone, a deep crease across their palms, and short stature. Though all people with Down syndrome experience some degree of cognitive delays, it is now understood, that they are capable of learning, have diverse interests, talents and strengths just like their typically developing peers.
Down syndrome also puts people with Down syndrome at higher risk “for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer's disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions,” says NDSS. Yet, medical advances have made most of these conditions treatable and have increased longevity dramatically. In 1983, most adults with Down syndrome could only expect to live to age 25, but today, most adults with Down syndrome live to at least 60 years of age.
Life expectancy isn’t the only thing that has changed over the last few decades. In recent years, people with Down syndrome have found success in school, at work and in relationships. They are becoming increasingly visible and accepted in most areas of our society.
Well known for his role as Corky Thatcher on ABC’s “Life Goes On,” Chris Burke is also NDSS Goodwill Ambassador. Burke works and blogs for the organization regularly. Lauren Potter made a name for herself on the hit show “Glee” playing cheerleader Becky Johnson. And more recently, Jamie Brewer played a clairvoyant on the hit show “American Horror Story.”
Madeline Stuart made her runway modeling debut in 2015 and followed that up with the launch of her own fashion label at this year’s NY Fashion Week!
People with Down syndrome are also making their marks in the world of visual art. Check out these online galleries on the website of the National Association for Down Syndrome.org to see how people with Down syndrome are expressing their creativity.
But one doesn’t have to be a celebrity or artist to be a successful person with Down syndrome. According to Babble, people with Down syndrome have made headlines recently for their academic and political accomplishments as well. For instance, Megan McCormick graduated with honors and at the top of her class from Bluegrass Community Technical College in Kentucky, becoming the first person in the U.S. with Down syndrome to do so.
And in 2013, Angela Bachiller became the first councilwoman with Down syndrome.
The outlook for people with Down syndrome is brighter than ever but greater awareness about their talents, abilities, and of what they have to offer our society is still needed. According to Read and Spell.com, “In the United States a recent national survey showed that 56% of people with Down syndrome who are working are in paid positions. They may be in different kinds of work including supported employment positions in which a job coach eases the transition to a working environment, sheltered employment in which most of the other workers also have Down syndrome or competitive employment where they are the only individual with a learning difficulty in their place of work. An additional 3% are self-employed.”
For more information about Down syndrome and Down syndrome Awareness Month, visit nads.org and ndss.org