Guest Column

What’s up with Down Syndrome?

By Jenna P. Stites

Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal anomaly. Typically, each person is born with 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Down syndrome occurs when a person is born with three copies of the 21st chromosome instead of two. This is why March 21, or 3-21, is known as World Down Syndrome Day—it is symbolic of how people with Down syndrome have three copies of the 21st chromosome.

Current estimates show that one baby is born with Down syndrome for every 792 births and that there are about 200,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States. In the Miami Valley 25 babies are born with Down syndrome each year and there are 1,000-plus people living with Down syndrome in our communities. There is no known cause of Down syndrome and, in fact, 95 percent of all cases happen at random and are not inherited from another family member.

So what’s so important to know about Down syndrome? Well, for starters, people with Down syndrome are more like you and me than they are different. They have unique strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. Also, advancements in research, medical procedures and therapy programs have drastically improved the opportunities available for individuals with Down syndrome in today’s society. Whereas just 50 years ago individuals with Down syndrome often had a life expectancy of only 10 years, today people with Down syndrome are contributing to society, holding steady employment, getting married and living wonderful lives well into their 60s. We now know that people with Down syndrome can and will succeed when given the opportunity.

So, now what? One thing that you can do to help celebrate people with Down syndrome and raise awareness on March 21 is simply to wear socks! Lots of socks! Different colors, mixed and matched pairs, multiples on each foot, etc. You may stand out and you may get some odd looks but these are all great opportunities to let others know you stand up for a great cause.

Another way to help is get in touch with the MVDSA. The MVDSA was formed in 1977 by parents who recognized the need for supporting individuals with Down syndrome and their families. We’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving individuals with Down syndrome from diagnosis through adulthood in 11 counties in the Miami Valley. We provide a variety of programs and services for individuals with Down syndrome of all ages and their families, including our Annual Buddy Walk® coming up on Sept. 16. To learn more, volunteer or donate please visit our website at mvdsa.org

Jenna P. Stites is the executive director of the Miami Valley Down Syndrome Association.


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