For centuries, people with Down syndrome have been alluded to in art, literature, and science. It wasn’t until the late 19th century, however, that John Langdon Down, an English physician, published an accurate description of a person with Down syndrome. It was this scholarly work, published in 1866, which earned Down the recognition as the “father” of the syndrome. Although others had previously recognized the characteristics of the syndrome, it was Down who described the condition as a distinct and separate entity.
Throughout the 20th century, advances in medicine and science enabled researchers to investigate the characteristics of people with Down syndrome. In 1959, the French physician, Jerome Lejeune, identified Down syndrome as a chromosomal anomaly when he observed 47 chromosomes present in each cell of individuals with Down syndrome instead of the usual 46. It was later determined that an extra partial or complete 21st chromosome results in the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.
Down syndrome occurs in one out of every 691 live births, and more than 400,000 people in the U.S. have this genetic condition. One of the most frequently occurring chromosomal abnormalities, Down syndrome affects people of all ages, races and economic levels. Today, individuals with Down syndrome are active participants in the educational, vocational, social and recreational aspects of our communities. In fact, there are more opportunities than ever before for individuals with Down syndrome to develop their abilities, discover their talents and realize their dreams. For example, more teens and adults with Down syndrome each year are graduating from high school, going to college, finding employment and living independently.
The opportunities currently available to individuals with Down syndrome have never been greater. However, it is only through the collective efforts of parents, professionals, and concerned citizens that acceptance is becoming even more widespread.
For more information: