As a chromosomal abnormality since birth, Down Syndrome plays a big part in one person’s physical and cognitive aspects as they age. People with Down Syndrome may establish different characteristics and show different capacities. But is Down Syndrome an intellectual disability? Can we expect people with Down Syndrome to perform better as they age?


Down Syndrome and Chromosome 21

Down Syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs when there is an abnormality in the chromosomal division.

To give you a background about this condition, we should know about chromosomes. These are tiny particles in the cell that house the genes. Normally, we have 46 chromosomes at birth. However, a baby with Down Syndrome develops an extra copy of one of these gene packages, chromosome 21. This additional chromosome affects the overall development of the baby.


Incidence of Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome and Intellectual DisabilityAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one out of almost 700 births can have Down Syndrome. Because 90% of the cases around the world were found out to be from the mother (egg cell), the chances of a baby having Down Syndrome increase as one mother ages.

Women ages 30 and below have a 1 in a thousand chance that their baby may have Down syndrome. By age 35, the possibility increases to 1 every 400. Furthermore, if a mother aged 42 or older gets pregnant, the incidence of having her baby afflicted with Down syndrome increase to 1 out of 60.


Symptoms of Down Syndrome


Physical Manifestations

Have you noticed that people with Down Syndrome have similar features? You can blame the chromosomal abnormality for this. Having poor muscle tone, short neck, flat facial features, slanting eyes, and abnormal crease and folds on the hands and toes are some of the usual presenting physical symptoms of Trisomy 21, another term for Down Syndrome.


Intellectual Disabilities

If the physical symptoms of children and adults with Down Syndrome have similar features, the same may be expected with their intellectual disabilities. Truth is, kids with Down Syndrome can still easily absorb developmental tasks and pieces of training like how to walk, talk, and go potty. However, the timeline with which these can be practiced or observed remains delayed. Mental retardation along with other cognitive impairments may range from mild to moderate but rarely severe.

  • Inattentiveness (short attention span)
  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Impulsiveness (throwing tantrums, recklessness, spontaneous behavior)
  • Cognitive delay (mental retardation)
  • Speech and language impediment


Medical Risks

Aside from the physical appearance and intellectual disabilities, people with Down Syndrome may also increase their chances of developing medical problems. They may have issues with their hormones, hearing, visual acuity, and cardiovascular health.


Is Down Syndrome An Intellectual Disability?

The simple answer to that is yes. Kids with Down syndrome have different levels of intellectual disabilities ranging typically from mild to moderate. Those with a minimal intellectual disability usually learn how to do daily routines and typical activities such as reading, maintaining a career or occupation, and commuting to and from the house on their own. Meanwhile, those with remarkably moderate mental retardation or intellectual disabilities may actively require guidance and assistance.

intellectual disabilities with Down Syndrome

In school, children with Down syndrome can take part and join regular classes instead of special education. While some of them may need extra help or modifications in the curriculum or activities, most kids can cope and adjust well on their own.

The modernization and the widespread information dissemination about Down Syndrome allowed more schools to have the ability to customize their way of teaching. This way, they can accommodate the special needs of children with Down Syndrome without labeling them as special students in general.

Through this initiative, one can expect a continuously growing population of people with Down syndrome who can graduate from senior high school, attend college, have a degree, and work in their communities.


Assistance for people with Down Syndrome

For parents of children with Down Syndrome manifesting moderate intellectual disabilities, the best way to help them for their assistance and guidance comes from their willingness to search for programs and agencies under this expertise.

As accorded by law, every state or city should present and offer developmental and special education services for children with Down syndrome in their area. The help that they can extend to the parents and the kids with this condition should start straight from birth up until the child reaches the age of 21.


Having kids with Down Syndrome is a challenge in itself. However, parents can find hope and help in the presence of co-parents who deal with the same life test. There are also several agencies and foundations that offer assistance and serve as a support system so you can feel secure and assured of a bright future full of opportunities for your child.


Refer to these articles for further readings:

Facts about Down Syndrome.

What to know about Down syndrome.

What is Down Syndrome?

Intellectual Disability and Health: Down’s Syndrome

What is an Intellectual Disability?

What are the common symptoms of Down syndrome?

Clinical Studies and Research about Down Syndrome.

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