October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. And because I love someone with Down syndrome, I’d like to share a little bit about it.

Down syndrome (DS), also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. The placement of this third copy determines the type of DS diagnosis. The most prevalent is trisomy 21 (95%), followed by translocation (4%), and mosaicism (1%). Typical characteristics of persons diagnosed with a type of DS are impaired cognitive functions, noticeable physical traits, and health concerns.

Each year approximately 6,000 babies who have DS are born to families in the US. This translates into 1 out of 700 births. It is the most common birth defect and the primary genetic cause of cognitive impairment.

The numbers of persons living with Down syndrome have been steadily increasing since the 1970’s. This increase is attributed to improved medical care and better overall quality of life. The life expectancy of a person diagnosed with Down syndrome in 1983 was 25 years. Today, it’s 60.

While you may be more familiar with facts that define ‘what’ Down syndrome is, you may be less familiar with facts that define ‘who’ Down syndrome is.

Down syndrome:

  • Loves music and dancing;
  • Wears crazy socks, especially knee-high socks;
  • Has a place for everything (and you better put it back where you found it);
  • Memorizes lines and songs from her favorite movies and frequently performs them for your overall entertainment;
  • Is genuine, kind, strong-willed, and inspirational;
  • Never stops learning;
  • Is a teacher;
  • Loves big and hugs often;
  • Pays attention to detail;
  • Says what’s on her mind; and, most importantly;
  • Is a gift and a blessing from God.


Do you know and love someone with Down syndrome? If so, it’s time to put on your craziest socks, turn up the music and dance like no one is watching. You’ll be glad you did.


Jacqueline Gorton is an advocate at Disability Rights Arkansas.