Myths and truths

Today there are still many misconceptions about Down syndrome and those who have it. This guide dispels some of the common myths about Down syndrome.

MYTH: Down syndrome is a rare disorder.

TRUTH: Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. Approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, or around 6,000 births per year.

MYTH: Down syndrome is hereditary and runs in families.

TRUTH: Translocation, a type of Down syndrome that accounts for 3 to 4% of all cases, is the only type of Down syndrome known to have a hereditary component. Of those, one third (or 1% of all cases of Down syndrome) are hereditary.

MYTH: Most children with Down syndrome are born to older parents.

TRUTH: Most children with Down syndrome are born to women younger than 35 years old simply because younger women have more children. However, the likelihood of having a child with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother, especially after age 35.

MYTH: All people with Down syndrome have a severe cognitive disability.

TRUTH: Most people with Down syndrome have a mild to moderate cognitive disability, or intellectual disability. This is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses. Be considerate of the extra time it might take a person who has a disability to get things done or said.

MYTH: People with Down syndrome are always sick.

TRUTH: Though people with Down syndrome are at an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, and thyroid conditions, advances in health care and treatment of these conditions have allowed for most individuals with Down syndrome to lead healthy lives.

MYTH: People with Down syndrome cannot be active members of their community.

TRUTH: People with Down syndrome are active participants in educational, social and recreational activities. They are included in the typical education system and take part in sports, music, art programs and any other activities in the community. People with Down syndrome are valued members of their families and communities, and make meaningful contributions to society.

MYTH: Adults with Down syndrome are unable to form close interpersonal relationships leading to marriage.

TRUTH: People with Down syndrome socialize and have meaningful friendships. Some choose to date, maintain ongoing relationships and marry.

MYTH: Adults with Down syndrome are unemployable.

TRUTH: Businesses employ adults with Down syndrome for a variety of positions – in banks, corporations, hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, offices and restaurants. They work in the music and entertainment industry, in clerical positions, childcare, the sports field and the computer industry, to name a few. Like anybody else, people with Down syndrome want to have a job where their work will be valued.

MYTH: It is ok to use the “r-word” if you don’t really mean it.

TRUTH: It is never acceptable to use the word “retarded” in any derogatory context. Using this word is hurtful and suggests that people with disabilities are not competent.

Agencies

Rwanda Decides