Down syndrome myths

Even though my son has Down syndrome, when I was asked about the myths of Down syndrome, I had to really think about what those were.  We live with so many preconceptions that to get the facts right you sometimes need to consult the experts. With a bit of checking I realised that I shared some of those mistaken beliefs. The most common misconceptions are the following:

Myth: Down syndrome is a rare condition
Truth: Actually it is not rare at all. With approximately 400 000 people living with Down syndrome in the USA alone it’s the most commonly occurring genetic condition in the whole world.

Myth: People with Down syndrome don’t live very long
Truth: Although this used to be true, it was mainly due to the associated medical problems faced by people with Down syndrome. But with medical advances the average life span of a person with Down syndrome has increased to 50 years.

Myth: The parents of children with Down syndrome are older than average
Truth: It is true that older women are more prone to giving birth to children with Down syndrome, however since more younger women give birth than older women, the bigger percentage of babies born with Down syndrome have younger mothers. It might also have to do with the screening tests that are recommended to all pregnant women over 35 years of age.

Myth: People with Down syndrome are severely “retarded”
Truth: Most people with Down syndrome have only mild to moderate intellectual disability and can, with support and a modified curriculum, attend normal educational institutions.

Myth: Most people with Down syndrome need to go to a home
Truth: Unfortunately this used to be true many years ago. Today people with Down syndrome enjoy normal lives at home with their families.

Myth: Children with Down syndrome must attend special schools
Truth: The educational system in South Africa has made provision for children with Down syndrome to be educated with a modified curriculum in mainstream schools.

Myth: There are no jobs for people with Down syndrome
Truth: People with Down syndrome are quite capable of holding down a job. They do their jobs with enthusiasm, reliability and dedication.

Myth: People with Down syndrome are always happy
Truth: They go through all the same emotions that we do. They also get angry, sad and unhappy.

Myth: People with Down syndrome cannot get married
Truth: They are quite capable of experiencing love and getting married.

Are there any we missed out on? Include your myths and truths below.

Read this mother's personal story of having a baby with Down syndrome in Diagnosis: Down syndrome.

The Down Syndrome Association can be contacted on (021) 919 8533 or

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