Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder arising at the time of conception. There is an extra number 21 chromosome (Trisomy 21) which causes delays in physical and intellectual development. The exact cause of Down syndrome is currently unknown. It is not related to race, age, religion and socio-economic status and is one of the most frequently occurring chromosomal disorders. Down syndrome is characterised by a variety of unique features and a wide range of abilities in physical and cognitive areas of development. Intellectual ability cannot be assessed by the number of clinical signs and symptoms present.
The majority of people with Down syndrome fall in the mild to moderate range of intellectual disability. The incidence of Down syndrome is estimated to be one in every 1000 live births in developed countries and one in every 650 live births in developing countries. (In South Africa it is roughly one in every 500)
Women over the age of 35 are at a higher risk of having a child with Down syndrome. Nevertheless more than 80% of children with Down syndrome are currently being born to mothers under the age of 35. Although it cannot be cured, people with Down syndrome benefit from loving homes, appropriate medical care, early intervention, educational and vocational services. Due to advanced medical care, the majority of people born with Down syndrome today have a life expectancy of approximately fifty-five years. The person with Down syndrome has the same emotions and needs as any other person and deserves the same opportunities and care. The proper and accepted terminology for this disability is DOWN SYNDROME.