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Myths about Down syndrome

December 18, 2015

There are many myths about Down syndrome still out there, so we’re debunking them once and for all!

Down syndrome is not a disease or illness, it’s when someone is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21 in their DNA (full or partial). In Australia there are over 13,000 people with the disability – that’s about 1 in 270 people.

Let’s take a look at a few of those myths!

Myth 1: People with Down syndrome are always happy

Even though this might seem like a positive thing to say, it’s just not true!

Saying this suggests that people with Down syndrome are not capable of feeling the full range of emotions. Anger, fear, joy, sadness, embarrassment, and excitement are just a few emotions that people with Down syndrome can, and do experience.

In fact, it’s just as likely that someone with Down syndrome will be sobbing away to ‘A Star is Born’ as anyone else!

People with Down syndrome are also actually at a higher risk of depression and anxiety. This is important to know as mental illness often goes untreated or under-treated in people with Down syndrome – as others often make assumptions about their mental health when they shouldn’t!

Myth 2: Only older women have babies with Down syndrome

It is true that the probability of a mother giving birth to a child with Down syndrome increases with age.

For example by 35, the likelihood of a woman conceiving a child with Down syndrome is about 1 in 350, by 40 1 in 100, and by 45 about 1 in 30 (Mayo Clinic).

But, mothers of all ages can have a child with Down syndrome. In fact, 80% of babies with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age – simply because women this age group have the most kids!

Myth 3: People with Down syndrome can’t be independent

This is a myth that stretches back decades, and really couldn’t be further from the truth.

Down syndrome can be quite different person to person. Some people may therefore be quite independent, while others will need a greater level of support.

However people with Down syndrome can absolutely live very independent lives – some may own their own house, work a 9-5 job, get married, and jet off on holidays.

Myth 4: People with Down syndrome die young

This one used to be true…. The Mayo Clinic tells us that in 1910, a child born with Down syndrome often passed away before his or her 10th birthday.

Fast forward 100 years, the life expectancy of people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically.

These days, many people with Down syndrome live into their 60s, and some even live well into their 80s.

Myth 5: People with Down syndrome all look the same

It’s true that there are some features that people with Down syndrome may have in common such as eye and face shape, but like in any group of people there is HUGE variation! For some people, one feature might be quite prominent, but for others they may not have it at all!

In reality, people with Down syndrome look more like others in their own families than they do other people with Down syndrome.