Down syndrome is the most common and readily identifiable chromosomal condition associated with mental retardation. Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs in approximately one in 800 live births.* It is often caused by an abnormality during cell division in gamete formation called nondisjunction. As a result, the fertilized egg contains three copies of chromosome 21. The extra chromosome interferes with normal growth and development. It is important for parents, healthcare professionals and teachers to have a clear and accurate understanding of each child’s medical concerns and level of developmental functioning.
In most cases, the diagnosis of Down syndrome is made according to results from a chromosome test administered shortly after birth. Although parents of any age may have a child with Down syndrome, the incidence is higher for women older than 35. There are more than 50 clinical signs of Down syndrome, but it is rare to find all or even most of them in one person.
Some common characteristics include:
Individuals with Down syndrome are usually smaller than their peers without disabilities, and their physical and intellectual development is slower. Besides having a distinct physical appearance, children with Down syndrome frequently have specific health-related issues.
*National Institutes of Health Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Center
National Down Syndrome Society
National Down Syndrome Congress
Down Syndrome: Health Issues
Down Syndrome Association of the UK
European Down Syndrome Association
Down Syndrome Quarterly
Max Brewer was diagnosed with a mild form of autism when he was 3. His older brother, Arthur, also has autism and completed the Marcus Autism Center Early Intervention Program. “We had seen such great progress with Arthur, so we knew that we needed to start Max in the program, too,” Max’s mother, Therese, said.
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