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Down syndrome

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A child with Down syndrome building a bookcase.

Down syndrome (also called Down's syndrome or trisomy 21; old name mongoloid idiocy) is a genetic disorder. It comes from a problem with the genes. Humans are diploid organisms. This means that for each chromosome, there are two copies, one from the mother, and one from the father. During meiosis the number is reduced to one set of chromosomes. People with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, or part of it. They usually have some measure of mental handicap, but this can range from mild to severe.

Children who have this condition take more time to learn new things. They also grow differently from other children. Babies with Down syndrome can be identified at birth because they may have a specific set of physical features, including narrow eyes, and flat nose-bridge, smaller mouths (which can result in tongue protrusion or what looks like a large tongue), and shorter fingers. Sometimes the little fingers curve inwards as well, and there is also often a space between the big toe and the others. The condition is named after John Langdon Down, the British doctor who first described it in 1866. He called it mongoloid idiocy because he thought that children with Down syndrome had faces like that of Blumenbach's Mongolian race. Idiocy meant intellectual disability. That term is no longer used today, because of the disparaging nature of the term.

Doctors in the UK usually inform others that people with the condition have a mild to medium learning difficulty. The same is true in the United States, although there is still sometimes discrimination against people with down syndrome, both in the education system and in society in general. [1] Some people with the condition have average intelligence, but may have other problems with development instead. People with Down syndrome often have a different shape of eyes than most people. A few people with the condition have severe learning difficulties.

Of every 800 to 1000 babies that are born, one is diagnosed with Down syndrome. People who are pregnant can be told whether their fetus has Down syndrome. If it does they may choose to have an abortion. In the United Kingdom and Europe 92% of fetuses with Down's syndrome are aborted.[2]

Well-known people with Down syndrome

Scottish award-winning movie and TV actress Paula Sage receives her BAFTA award with Brian Cox.

The Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles keeps a list of people with Down syndrome with roles in TV and movies.[17]

Portrayal in fiction


  3. Stephane Ginnsz Danny Alsabbagh as Toby, one of Mr. G's Special Education students in the Australia series Summer Heights High. "Film Actor with Down Syndrome". Retrieved 2006-12-08.
  4. My lovely son, the Hollywood star, Daily mail, December 30, 2006; Max Lewis on the Internet Movie Database
  5. Lomon, Chris (2003-02-28). "NHL Alumni RBC All-Star Awards Dinner". NHL Alumni. Retrieved 2006-12-08.
  6. "Pujols Family Foundation Home Page". Retrieved 2006-12-08.
  7. "Special Olympic Athlete Stars in Movie". Retrieved 2007-11-05.
  8. "AfterLife Movie Review (2003)from Channel 4 Film". Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  9. "Bratislava International Film festival 2004". Retrieved 2007-11-05.
  10. List of past characters from River City
  11. Joyce Scott (2006-08-07). "Entwined - the life of Judith Scott". Judith Scott Foundation. Retrieved 2006-12-08.
  12. Mason, Carolyn. Life on the Ranch:Gene Stallings may live in Texas, but he's taken a piece of Alabama with him. The Tuscaloosa News (7 September 2006). Retrieved 5 December 2006.
  13. Dan Warburton (2003-03-12). "Interview: Reynols". Judith Scott Foundation. Retrieved 2006-12-08.
  14. "Karen Gaffney Foundation". Retrieved 2008-03-07.
  15. "Teacher and actor with Down Syndrome".
  16. "Down Syndrome Takes Center Stage On Fox's Glee - Disability Scoop". Retrieved November 26, 2010.
  17. Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles. Media Archive: Television and Film that include individuals with Down Syndrome. Retrieved 1 December 2006.


  • Beck, M.N. (1999). Expecting Adam. New York: Berkley Books.
  • Buckley, S. (2000). Living with Down Syndrome. Portsmouth, UK: The Down Syndrome Educational Trust.
  • Down Syndrome Research Foundation (2005). Bright Beginnings: A Guide for New Parents. Buckinghamshire, UK: Down Syndrome Research Foundation.
  • Hassold, T.J.; D. Patterson (1999). editors,. ed. Down Syndrome: A Promising Future, Together. New York: Wiley Liss.
  • Kingsley, J.; M. Levitz (1994). Count us in — Growing up with Down Syndrome. San Diago: Harcourt Brace.
  • Pueschel, S.M.; M. Sustrova (1997). editors,. ed. Adolescents with Down Syndrome: Toward a More Fulfilling Life. Baltimore, MD USA: Paul H. Brookes.
  • Selikowitz, M. (1997). Down Syndrome: The Facts (2nd edition ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Van Dyke, D.C.; P.J. Mattheis; S. Schoon Eberly; and J. Williams (1995). Medical and Surgical Care for Children with Down Syndrome. Bethesda, MD USA: Woodbine House.
  • Zuckoff, M. (2002). Choosing Naia: A Family's Journey. New York: Beacon Press.

Other websites

For comprehensive lists of Down syndrome links see

Societies and Associations

By Country


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