“Lots of people with little kids or babies with Down syndrome tell me they aren’t afraid of the future for their child because of what I am doing to help people understand it better.”
-Lauren Potter ( Advocate for people with down’s syndrome. Better known for her role as Becky Jackson, In the show Glee)
Today, the 21st of March, is World Down Syndrome Awareness day. I saw a video on the internet, of a young girl with down syndrome, the other day. She had the sweetest smile, beautiful,silk ,blonde hair. Beautiful and happy soul, with the innocence of a lamb. She was talking about World Down’s Syndrome Day and how everyone should wear different colored socks to commemorate the day. Well, one thing for sure is, I wish I had those socks on, colored or not! Because this cold is so unforgiving! Anyway, I took some time to research a bit of information on down’s syndrome because for the longest time, I thought it was a mental illness! But technically it isn’t!
Down’s Syndrome, is a genetic mutation or rather,a genetic disorder that is brought about by chromosomal defect. That is, the genetic make up of an individual who has down syndrome, is made up of more chromosomes than required. Someone once explained to me that the reason the condition is called “down syndrome” is because individuals who have it, have droopy face features. Oh my days! Ignorance is not bliss, at all! However, the condition was named after John Langdon Down, an English doctor, who was the first one to diagnose the disorder and also, help distinguish it from mental illness.
Many people, I included, have always thought that down syndrome is a form of mental retardation. But let me break it down in the simple science I know. When a baby is being formed, it inherits 23 chromosomes from each parent amounting to 46 chromosomes. Nonetheless, Individuals with down’s syndrome have a genetic mutation whereby they have 47 chromosomes, meaning a parent cell, either the mother or the father gave 24 chromosomes instead of 23 chromosomes . The condition is not hereditary, it happens by chance. Although women are more likely to pass on the mutated gene to their child than men.
This is where mental illness comes in; down’s syndrome tends to bring with it, what is known in medicine as, comorbidities. This is the presence of one or more diseases that go hand in hand with the initial disease/ disorder. So, yes, person’s with down’s syndrome are prone to intellectual disabilities and more so, mental illness. A large percentage are likely to suffer from dementia (decline of mental ability/ functions), depending on the age and process of development. All in all, children with down syndrome have talents and abilities that other children possess. The only difference is that they experience delays in mental development and may need a little extra attention.
In summary, down syndrome isn’t a mental illness but a genetic defect. However, mental illness is one of the comorbidities ( various health conditions that accompany the primary condition) that affect an individual who has down’s syndrome. So next time you see a person with down syndrome, they’re not like that because of a mental condition. They’re like that because their genetic make up isn’t like ours. They’ve got designer genes! Get it? No? Okay.
In reference to the words of Albert Einstein, I hope I explained it in a way a six year old can understand; to make it simpler for you guys. I’m not a medical doctor or anything, but this is the little knowledge I’ve managed to gather, in the spirit of down syndrome awareness. I hope it was of use. What do you know about down syndrome? Enlighten someone today and create awareness.
Happy world down’s syndrome awareness day!
Until next time!
With Love and Light,