With the incidence of Down Syndrome in the UAE being more than two times higher than the global average, it's crucial to debunk some of the commonly held misperceptions about the condition and what it means for those who have it. We spoke to Dr Ladimari Toledo Hoeppler, PhD, Managing Director, Social Skills Development / Independent Living skills at Dubai Down Syndrome Centre, to help dispel some of the major myths about this condition...
1. "Down Syndrome is a disease"
Down syndrome is not a disease, but a genetic condition that occurs when there is the presence of an extra chromosome. People with Down syndrome are not ill and do not “suffer” from their condition.
2. "People with Down Syndrome cannot learn or go to school"
While it is true that all people with the syndrome will have a varying degree of learning difficulty, the degree can vary dramatically. Most people with Down Syndrome will walk and talk and many will read and write, go to ordinary schools and lead fulfilling, independent lives.
3. “People with Down syndrome don’t live very long”
Today, people with Down syndrome can look forward to a long life of 60 years plus.
4. “Only older mothers have babies with Down syndrome”
Although older mothers have a higher individual chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome, statistically more babies with Down Syndrome are born to younger mothers, reflecting the higher birth rate in this group.
5. “People with Down syndrome cannot achieve normal life goals”
With the right support, they can. Most people with Down syndrome learn to walk and talk, and many are now attending mainstream schools, passing GCSEs and living full, semi-independent adult lives.
6. “People with Down syndrome all look the same”
There are certain physical characteristics that can occur. People with Down syndrome can have all of them or none. A person with Down syndrome will always look more like his or her close family than someone else with the condition.