The facts about Down syndrome

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■ Down syndrome is named after the British doctor John Langdon Down, who was the first to describe characteristics of people with Down syndrome in 1866.

■ Down syndrome, or Trisomy 21, is a condition whereby there are three copies of the 21st chromosome instead of two.

■ 25 was the life expectancy for someone with Down syndrome two decades ago. Today, the approximate life expectancy is 60.

■ 1 in 691 births in the United States are affected by Down syndrome, making it the most frequently occurring chromosomal condition.

■ More than 400,000 people in the U.S. and an estimated 6,000 people in Colorado have Down syndrome. It is estimated that 5 million people worldwide have Down syndrome.

■ It is one of the leading clinical causes of cognitive delay in the world — it is not related to race, nationality, religion or socioeconomic status.

■ Its probability increases with advanced age in mothers; however, 80 percent of those with Down syndrome are born to mothers younger than 35.

■ 40 to 60 percent of children born with Down syndrome will have a congenital heart defect. More than 50 percent of those with Down syndrome will experience the early onset of Alzheimer’s.

■ It is extremely rare for a person with Down syndrome to develop a hard tumor cancer, to have a heart attack or to suffer a stroke.

■ Despite its frequency, Down syndrome is the least funded of the conditions serviced by the National Institutes of Health receiving approximately $17 million out of a total $28 billion budget.

■ Children with Down syndrome can read and are gifted visual learners. They have a predisposition to specific learning strengths and challenges that are not currently addressed in practice in special education.

■ Improvements in care during the past 15 years have led to a 20-point increase in IQ for individuals with Down syndrome.

Sources: Down Syndrome Association and Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome

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