HHS recognizes Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October 7, 2021

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time to learn about a disease that approximately 6,000 babies are born with each year in the United States.

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal disease diagnosed in the United States, occurring in approximately one in 700 babies and in people of all races and economic levels. Usually babies are born with 46 chromosomes, 23 from each parent. People with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, which impacts the development of their bodies and brains.

There are three types of Down syndrome:

  • Down’s syndrome – every cell has three copies of chromosome 21. Most people have this type.
  • Translocation Down Syndrome – some or all of extra chromosome 21 is present, but it is attached to a different chromosome. This occurs in about 3% of people with Down syndrome.
  • Mosaic Down Syndrome – cells have a combination of the above two conditions. It affects about 2% of people with Down syndrome.

People with Down syndrome have a higher risk of breathing and hearing problems, eye problems, thyroid problems, and other medical problems.

Complications at birth, such as very low birth weight and heart defects, can lead to death in the first year. About 40% of children born with Down syndrome have congenital heart defects, but many of these conditions are now treatable.

People with Down syndrome have different levels of ability and can reach milestones later in life than is considered typical. Development delays do not mean they are unable to thrive.

“Before coming to work at HHSC, I had worked as an early intervention specialist with a local early childhood intervention program (ECI) and worked with children of different abilities,” said Erika Alvarez, liaison family ECI. “Helping families and witnessing their progress is truly heartwarming. I remember with emotion a mother who had a daughter with Down’s syndrome. She initially struggled to come to terms with her daughter’s diagnosis, but quickly became her daughter’s biggest advocate. The mom became very involved in the sessions, asked for resources and joined groups to surround herself with support.

Getting children with Down’s syndrome early on is essential to helping them develop to their full potential. This can include speech therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, and other developmental services. Thanks to HHS, families can contact early childhood intervention services and Healthy Texas Babies programs and read the brochure Information on Down Syndrome for New Parents and Expecting Parents.

To learn more about Down syndrome, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Down Syndrome Facts webpage and the DSHS Down Syndrome Webpage.

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