October is national Down syndrome awareness month. You probably already know that Down syndrome occurs when there are 3 copies of chromosome 21. But over the years, I have been asked all sorts of questions about Down syndrome. Here are a few of the more interesting ones:
Is there something wrong with you because you had a baby with Down syndrome?
No. Nothing is wrong with me. There is no medical reason as to why I had a baby with Down syndrome. It just occurs. I didn't do anything in the pregnancy to cause it. It's something that doesn't happen very often but could potentially happen to anyone. The chances of having a baby with Down syndrome increases with maternal age but the majority of babies with Down syndrome (80%) are born to women under 35. I was 25 years old when my daughter was born.
Isn't Down syndrome hereditary?
Down syndrome is a genetic condition because it involves the DNA. Genetic and hereditary are not the same thing. There are actually 3 types of Down syndrome. A rare type of Down syndrome that can occur could be due to a parent being a particular carrier, but this is a small percentage of people with Down syndrome. When I had my daughter, I was told that I had a 1% chance of it happening again. So, in general Down syndrome is not hereditary.
How severe is your daughter's Down syndrome?
I get asked this once in awhile. There are no severity ratings with Down syndrome. You either have it or you don't. There is not a "mild case" of Down syndrome or a "severe case" of Down syndrome, although sometimes I hear parents saying this. There is much variability within individuals with Down syndrome. Think about your own children and the differences in their abilities. People with Down syndrome are no different. While some may have more significant delays than others, there are no severity ratings given. However, the intellectual disabilities (formerly called mental retardation) that people with Down syndrome have can be classified as mild-profound.
Is your daughter always happy?
No! She has a full range of emotions. Jaycee is a very happy and sweet girl. This is often said about people with Down syndrome. But, she has feelings just like everyone else. She gets scared when she hears loud noises. She signs "scared" when she sees tigers. She gets upset when I won't let her have seconds or thirds of food. She cries when her grandmas leave her (even though she sees them at least weekly). Jaycee gets excited when she sees her cousins. When she doesn't want to do something, she finds ways to let you know. She has likes and dislikes just like anyone else.