Friday, March 24, 2017

World Down Syndrome Day: #NotSpecialNeeds

Cell Organization and Down Syndrome Test

March 21st marks World Down Syndrome Day, so for this week’s post I thought it would be a good idea to look into what Down Syndrome is.

Down Syndrome has been described throughout history, but it wasn’t until 1866 that John Langdon Down synthesized the diagnosis. Later in the 1950s, Jérôme Lejeune figured out that Down Syndrome was a chromosomal difference ( In people with Down Syndrome, the twenty-first chromosome has a whole or partial extra copy. The whole or partial copy leads to visible differences like “low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm—although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all” ( There are different kinds of Down Syndrome: Trysomy 21, Mosaicism, and Translocation. Although we know that there is a chromosomal difference with Down Syndrome, there is no definitive answer to the cause of Down Syndrome. The older a woman is when she gives birth does statistically increase the likelihood of a baby having Down Syndrome, but researchers don’t really know why.

As for the science of it, the above picture gives a brief synopsis of the genetic structure of our cells. We all have millions of cells in our bodies, and each cell has a nucleus. Within this nucleus are the chromosomes, and those chromosomes contain our genetic makeup or DNA. In recent years, scientists have been learning more and more about our DNA through gene mapping. What is pretty amazing is that we can see pictures of the Down Syndrome difference by looking at chromosomes! Included in the image is a snapshot of a test that shows the twenty-first chromosome with an extra copy.

No matter what causes Down Syndrome, it is important to realize that people with Down Syndrome are just regular people, and they are more than just their syndrome. To combat stigma, the #NotSpecialNeeds campaign released a video on World Down Syndrome Day that reminds all of us of this. The video is quite humorous and shows that people with Down Syndrome have human needs, not special needs. Be sure to take a couple of minutes to watch the video. If you have some time you might also want to check out the character Becky (played by Lauren Elizabeth Potter) on the TV show "Glee" who is also in the #NotSpecialNeeds video.


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