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What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a person being born with 47 chromosomes, instead of the normal 46. Having extra or abnormal chromosomes changes the way the brain and body develops, and this causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. Down syndrome causes distinct physical features, as well as moderate to mild intellectual disability.

General symptoms of Down syndrome include:

  • Distinctive facial features, such as a flat face, small ears, slanting eyes, and a small mouth
  • A short neck and short arms and legs
  • Low muscle tone and loose joints
  • mild to moderate intellectual disability

How does Down syndrome affect young people? 

Despite the fact that young people with Down syndrome have intellectual disabilities, they also have many individual strengths and talents. They should be given the opportunity to attend a school that is able to cater for their specific needs, work if they are able and willing to do so, participate in decisions that affect them, and have meaningful relationships.

Special educational programs, a safe home environment, good health care and positive support from family, friends and their community can enable young people with Down syndrome to lead fulfilling and productive lives.

Can Down syndrome be treated?

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder, and people who are born with the disorder do not need to be “cured” or “fixed.” They simply need care and support based on their specific needs. Ensuring that they receive the medical, physical and psychological care, treatment and stimulation they need from an early age will result in the highest possible quality of life. Beyond that, they should always be treated with dignity and respect.