What is Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome is a genetic condition which is the most commonly occurring chromosomal abnormality. It occurs in 1 out of every 733 births and affects people of all races and economic levels. Typically, babies receive 23 chromosomes from their mother and 23 from their father. A baby with Down syndrome, for unknown reasons, will have three copies of the 21st chromosome instead of two. That is why Down syndrome is also called Trisomy 21. Every cell will contain 47 instead of the typical 46 chromosomes. There are also two other forms of Down syndrome which are quite rare – mosaic and translocation. This extra genetic material will affect a baby's development, however, the baby has also inherited many physical and personality characteristics from his/her parents as well. A definitive diagnosis can only be made with a karyotype, which is a visual display of a baby's chromosomes. In the United States there are approximately 350,000 individuals living with Down syndrome. These individuals are active, vital members of their families and communities. A life with Down syndrome is a life well worth living.
Words can create barriers and reinforce stereotypes. Therefore, the DSAGT strongly believes in the importance of ensuring that correct language is used when talking or writing about individuals with Down syndrome. A baby born with Down syndrome is not a "Down's child" or a "baby with Downs." When describing an individual with Down syndrome, it is preferred that you say, he/she is a baby with Down syndrome. A person with Down syndrome is not a “Downs”. Placing the person before the disability emphasizes the person first and the disability second. When referring to peers, the correct term is “typical” peers as opposed to “normal.” It is also important to use correct terminology. A person does not “suffer” from Down syndrome, nor are they “afflicted”. It is not a disease. Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition which results in an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. It was discovered by Dr. John Langdon Down however since Dr. Down did not have this syndrome himself, the possessive form is not used. In addition, the ‘s’ in syndrome is not capitalized. Person First language emphasizes respect for the individual. A child is much more than a label. Help to educate family, friends and physicians about the preferred way to refer to your baby.