A happy child with Down syndrome

Myths About Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects chromosome 21 and results in intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, and health problems. Though our knowledge about Down syndrome has come a long way, there are still many unfortunate myths and misconceptions that surround this disorder and those who have it. Here are some of the most common myths about this condition, debunked.

Down syndrome is rare.

Actually, quite the opposite is true. Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition, with one in every 691 babies born with Down syndrome in the United States. That equates to more than 6,000 Down syndrome births each year. Currently, there are over 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States.

Down syndrome is hereditary.

Some people believe that Down syndrome is something that is “passed down” from parent to child. While there is one rare type of Down syndrome that has a hereditary component, it only accounts for 3% to 4% of all Down syndrome cases. 

People with Down syndrome are unable to be active members of their community.

While many picture people with Down syndrome as being unable to do anything on their own, the reality is that the intellectual and cognitive disabilities associated with Down syndrome vary in severity from individual to individual. Most people with Down syndrome only have mild to moderate cognitive disability, which means they are usually able to be active participants in educational, social, and recreational activities. In today’s world, people with Down syndrome are able to be valued members of their families and communities by making their own unique contributions to society.

People with Down syndrome are all the same.

It is common for people to group Down syndrome individuals into one big category by stereotyping their behavior, such as saying they are “always happy.” In reality though, children with Down syndrome are not much different than other children—they are well-rounded individuals who experience a full range of emotions, including joy, pain, excitement, and depression.

It is also common for people to believe that adults with Down syndrome are just like “big kids.” However, adults with Down syndrome are not children and should not be treated as such. They are able to enjoy activities and companionship with other adults and have similar needs and feelings as their peers. Some adults with Down syndrome even choose to date, maintain ongoing relationships, and marry.

The life expectancy of someone with Down syndrome is very low.

Many people believe that the life expectancy of someone with Down syndrome is less than 40. While this used to be the case, today’s medicine and the increasing support from communities now allows many individuals with Down syndrome to live well into their 60s and 70s, with the average life expectancy somewhere between 50 and 60. Unfortunately, much of the information about Down syndrome that is recorded in medical books and available online has become severely out-of-date.

Last Updated: December 10, 2015