Everyone has something about them that makes them unique, and no two people look the same or behave in the same way. We are all made up of a combination of genes that have been inherited from our mother and our father. Genes carry information that determine what characteristics are inherited from our parents, such as the colour of your hair, how tall you are, and the colour of your eyes.
Genes are the basic units of heredity. They consist of DNA and are part of a larger structure called a chromosome. In each human cell, there are 23 pairs of chromosomes. Sometimes, the things that make us different from everyone else are caused by a genetic anomaly. For reasons unknown to us, an error occurs at the cell division stage when a child is conceived. If the chromosomes do not split into equal halves, the new cells can have an extra chromosome (47 total) or have a missing chromosome (45 total), resulting in a genetic condition.
Worldwide, there are more than 6000 known genetic disorders, with Down Syndrome being the most common, and probably most recognised. Named after Dr John Langdon Down, the first physician to identify the condition in 1862, Down Syndrome occurs when an extra chromosome 21 is present in the DNA structure, and can occur in people from all races, cultures and social backgrounds.
Down Syndrome is quite prevalent in the Philippines, with 1 in every 800 babies born with the condition. February is National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month, aimed to raise awareness about the needs and abilities of people with Down Syndrome. We are all unique individuals, with differing looks, health needs, and intellectual abilities, the same can be applied to a person with Down Syndrome.
Many people are unaware that most young people with Down Syndrome enjoy a very typical life, with a range of support needs that can be minimal or more complex, depending on the individual.
As Down Syndrome is a genetic condition, there is a screening test available for expectant parents who are interested in discovering if their unborn child may have the condition. The test also screens for 17 other genetic conditions, and provides accurate results in a timely manner. The Prenatal Peace genetic screening test from EasyDNA Philippines is non-invasive, requiring no amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling. A standard blood draw is all that is required to undertake the DNA test, but it should be mentioned that this does not replace a diagnostic test.
National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month aims to educate people about some of the common myths surrounding people with this condition. People with Down Syndrome can lead very fulfilling lives. They attend schools, have a wide range of talents, they are emotional like anyone else, and participate in many regular activities. It is time to focus on the ability of the people in our community, and celebrate individuality, and Down Syndrome is no exception.
February is a great month to learn about being more inclusive when it comes to Down Syndrome, so why not find an event in your community that celebrates diversity!