Down syndrome is a genetic disorder involving an extra chromosome. In the womb, when things are forming, cells split and divide. A normal baby with normal cells does not experience an abnormality of the twenty-first chromosome like a baby with down syndrome does. During division, the chromosomes are in pairs within a cell and will divide into identical pairs. For some reason, a baby that has down syndrome will have three chromosomes instead of two. This extra chromosome causes physical and mental abnormalities in a baby. Eyes have an irregular shape, the forehead and nose are broad, and height is stunted. Most individuals who suffer from down syndrome also have a marked deficiency in IQ and testing will range them from moderately to severely handicapped. An individual who has an IQ of less than seventy is considered to be mentally handicapped. Most people with down syndrome will fall below this number.
There is nothing a parent does wrong that can cause their baby to purposefully have down syndrome. A woman who is in her late thirties or older carries an increased risk of bearing a handicapped child. Some theories have hypothesized everything from irregular hormone levels to deficiencies in eggs due to age, but there is not any one factor that can truly cause down syndrome. Certain people are genetic carriers though they do not suffer from down syndrome themselves. When their genetics mix in the proper combination, the traits can become evident.
Certain advances in genetics have made it possible for parents to learn before conception if they are going to have a child with down syndrome. During pregnancy a few tests can determine the presence early on so parents can properly accommodate the baby and its needs. Tests can even be done before conception to see what disorders a couple is susceptible to and might have to deal with in a baby. Counseling can help parents also learn how to properly care for a baby and what it will need. Counseling can also help the couple deal with stress and emotional upset over having a handicapped child. The demands of filling the child's special needs and what it can take away from a couple's lifestyle can be hard to deal with sometimes.
Those who do suffer from down syndrome can typically live a normal lifestyle with a few adaptations to allow for normalcy. Schooling might be done at a special school accustomed to the needs of a down syndrome child. Housing exists when one reaches adulthood with assistance from others to allow the individual to maintain an independent lifestyle. Doctors have technologies that can help with any physical abnormalities such as needs for a leg brace or special nutritional needs. In past decades, the life expectancy might only be to teens or twenties, but now most can expect a life span similar to the rest of the general population, look forward to getting married, work a job, and do about anything they desire. It is important that people be recognized as the individuals they are and given the same opportunities as anyone else, as they are just as capable.