Sunday, October 2, 2011

Erasing the Myths

Some of what makes Down Syndrome scary for so many people is the many myths that surround it. People often think that people with DS are unable to learn, are very sick all the time and die young. As many as 90% of people who get a diagnosis of Down Syndrome before their baby is born choose abortion rather than giving their child a chance at life (more on this appalling statistic in a later blog post).

So I just want to share a few facts about Down Syndrome that will hopefully help people realize that it is not as devastating a diagnosis as many believe.
  • Life expectancy for people with DS has improved dramatically over the past few decades. Today, the average life expectancy is 60 years old - compared to 25 years old in 1983. It is widely believed among experts that people with DS born today will live as long as their typical peers. 
  • Although Down Syndrome causes developmental and cognitive delays, a majority of people fall into the mild to moderate delay category. 
  • The chances of giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome increase with maternal age (specifically over the age of 35). However, 80% of children with Down Syndrome are born to mothers UNDER the age of 35 (I turned 28 a week before Aaron was born). 
  • Down Syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality, occurring in 1 out of every 691 live births. 
  • Down syndrome is not a disease, it is a genetic disorder (although it is usually NOT inherited). The medical term for DS is Trisomy 21 - which indicates there are 3 copies of the 21st chromosome instead of the typical 2 copies. 
  • Incredible advances in research have been made in recent years. Many researchers and scientists now believe that it will be possible to improve, correct or prevent many of the problems associated with Down syndrome in the near future. Clinical trials have recently started for a medication that hopes to improve cognitive function in people with DS.
I'm not going to lie, raising a child with Down Syndrome isn't easy. We go to therapy four to five times a week, have 8 doctors we see on a fairly regular basis and watching my friend's children grow and hit their milestones when my son isn't, is difficult. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth it. It doesn't mean Aaron isn't going to have a wonderful life and make this world a better place because he is in it. He's already made my life better.

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