Tuesday, October 4, 2016

2 Common Myths with Down Syndrome

It is time to play a game today called myth versus fact.

Common Myth #1:
Nearly all babies with Down syndrome are born to women over age 35.

As the mom ages, her chance of having a baby with Down syndrome does increase. From what I have read, sources have said that 50-80% of babies with Down syndrome are born to women under age 35.

I once believed the myth that only older women gave birth to babies with Down syndrome. I didn't realize it was even possible for a young mom to have a baby with Down syndrome. Then, I gave birth to my first child, who had Down syndrome. I was 25 at the time, and the diagnosis surprised me.

I remember asking the doctor how Down syndrome could happen to my baby when I was so young. It seemed impossible or so I thought. I was sure there was something wrong with me.

Now, I know that it can happen to any pregnant mom. The chances of it happening are less when you are younger, but it can still happen. There's nothing wrong with the mom. It could not have been prevented. An extra chromosome occurred and it's no one's fault.

So, yes teenage mothers, moms in their twenties, and moms in their thirties & forties can all have a baby with Down syndrome.

Common Myth #2:
Intellectual disability is associated with Down syndrome. That means that the child can't learn and will have no academic skills.

Individuals with any intellectual disability do learn and can develop academic skills.

Just so we are all clear, intellectual disability is the current terminology that replaced mental retardation a few years ago. Intellectual disability is associated with Down syndrome. Some people do not understand what an intellectual disability is and how it can manifest in a person. I have met several people over the years who seem to believe the myth that those with ID cannot learn.

Once, a nurse said to me, "She's not mentally retarded. She is using sign language. She has to be smart to do that."

To which, I smiled politely and did an inward sigh.

There seems to be those that assume people with intellectual disabilities are non-communicative, sitting in corner somewhere not caring about anything or anyone. They assume there's no opinions, personalities, or preferences. They focus on what they can't do.

Intellectual disability is simply below average intelligence and a difficulty with skills needed for daily life. There is a range from mild to profound. These individuals learn, just at a slower rate. I'm not saying that everyone who has an intellectual disability will do algebra, but they can learn. They may learn to do sign language. They may be able to count. They may be able to read. In short, they can. What each can do will vary, but they can do something. They will probably even surprise you!

This post is for Down syndrome Awareness Month where bloggers write for all 31 days of October for Trisomy 21. I am part of this 31 for 21 challenge. During the month of October, the NDSS asks that we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make others aware of abilities and accomplishments. Individuals with Down syndrome have abilities that need to be celebrated!

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