Importance of Down Syndrome Awareness

Brooke Calta, junior

Melissa Reilly works as an inspirational speaker and a teacher and is a gold medal skier, cycler, and swimmer. Sujeet Desai graduated from Bershire Hills Music academy, plays seven instruments and was featured in Time Magazine and the Wall Street journal. Michael John works as an artist who has sold more than five hundred portraits and had a solo gallery at Vanderbilt University. His paintings were featured on the cover of the American Journal of Public Health.

What do these tdownshree individuals have in common besides seemingly successful careers?

All were born with Down syndrome.

Students who are enrolled in basic high school science courses usually get some basic genetics concepts drilled into their mind:

“Chromosomes are rod-like structures that are made of genes.”

“Genes carry codes for inherited traits.”

“A mutation of a chromosome can cause a physical or mental change in an individual.”

“Down syndrome is called Trisomy 21 because of an extra copy of a chromosome on the 21st pair.”

Sure, many Americans know what causes Down syndrome, but are we as a population aware of what it truly entails?

Roughly 1 in every 700 infants are born with D
own syndrome. The birth defect alters how the child’s body and brain grow, and causes both physical and intellectual challenges. If diagnosed at birth, health care workers look for a single deep crease in the palm of the infant’s hand, a slightly flattened facial profile, an upward slant to the eyes, and low muscle tone in addition to blood tests for genetic testing.

Despite somewhat similar appearances and tendencies, people with Down’s have varying abilities, unique to each individual. According to The, children with Down syndrome can show few to several signs. In essence, an affected individual is typically more similar to the average person in a society than different. Contrary to several common myths, most people with Down’s can develop athletic abilities, learn to read and write, attend public school, and live independently.

Why should we care about Down syndrome? Fortunately, people with Down syndrome are living much longer lives because of advances in medicine and technology. With the increased life expectancy comes an increase in the number of affected individuals in the work force, health care settings, and schools. Therefore, it is imperative that Americans be not only educated, but accepting.

Like Melissa, Sujeet, and Michael, many people with Down syndrome are living successful, fulfilling lives. Unlike the common belief, people with Down syndrome can receive therapy that, depending on the severity, allows them to be more independent and partake in activities that they otherwise may not have been able to. Advances in healthcare are allowing people with Down syndrome to live longer, and now more and more progress is being made towards national awareness.


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