Frequently asked questions

What causes Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a chromosomal anomaly. In most cases it is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21 being present in all of the body’s cells (more rarely, other variations of this chromosomal pattern can occur, called Translocation and Mosaicism). There is no known reason for this and no one is to blame. It happens at conception and the occurrence of Down syndrome has not been linked to any activities before or during pregnancy.

Are babies with Down syndrome only born to older mothers?

Statistically the chances of having a child with Down syndrome will increase with maternal age however around 70% of babies with Down syndrome are born to mothers under thirty-five, with 20% of these to mothers under twenty-five years old. This is simply because more children overall are being born to mothers in these younger age groups.

Are there levels or degrees of Down syndrome?

In short - no. A diagnosis of Down syndrome itself is black or white, referring to the presence of the additional full or partial copy of chromosome 21. There is, however, a great range of abilities and features between individuals and this is where the confusion around 'levels' or 'degrees' may come in. Some of these characteristics may use classifying terms (like mild, moderate and severe) in which case it is important to reference the characteristic specifically eg. 'She has a mild intellectual impairment' rather than 'she has mild Down syndrome' (which is inaccurate).
Interestingly, no one with Down syndrome shows all the physical signs of the condition and, as with all people, their physical characteristics give no indication to their intellectual capabilities. This means we can't make any predictions about things like intellectual impairment or developmental delay based on the physical characteristics of a baby. 

Do people with Down syndrome all look alike?

While there are some physical features of Down syndrome that people may share, they have far more physical and personality characteristics in common with their families. Children with Down syndrome are more like other children than different. 

Are people with Down syndrome happy all the time?

Just like everyone else, people with Down syndrome are not always happy! They can also be sad, angry, excited, scared or joyful. Their feelings can be hurt and they can have fun in social situations, just like their peers.  

Do people with Down syndrome remain childlike?

Children with Down syndrome don't remain as children, but go through stages of wanting independence and relationships as occurs with most teenagers. Sexuality can be a difficult topic for parents but with appropriate education and support adults with Down syndrome can form relationships and some choose to marry. 

Can people with Down syndrome live independently?

Independent living is becoming more common for adults with Down syndrome. Learning the skills required is an important first step but with improvements in education, opportunities and most importantly, community attitudes, more adults are living independently with varying levels of support. 

Is it true that people with Down syndrome have a short life span?

In the past, people with Down syndrome had a shorter life expectancy due to inadequate access to health care and community services. Thanks to advances in medical diagnosis and treatment and, most significantly, major changes to societal attitudes, people with Down syndrome are living long, meaningful and fulfilled lives.

Further Information and Support

For further information and support please contact the team at Down Syndrome Queensland on (07) 3356 6655 or at s[email protected]