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What is Down Syndrome?

What is Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome in the body’s cells.

Down syndrome is not a disease, and is not a hereditary condition. It occurs by chance at conception.

As yet it is not known what causes the presence of an extra chromosome 21 no one is to blame, it occurs in all races, social classes and in all countries throughout the world. It can happen to anyone.

Facts about Down syndrome

Around one in every 1000 babies born in the uk will have Down syndrome.

There are over 40,000 people in the UK with the condition.

People with Down syndrome are not ill and do not suffer from the condition.

Today the average life expectancy for a person with Down Syndrome is between 50 and 60. A considerable number of people with Down Syndrome live into their 60s and beyond.

What are people with Down syndrome like?


People with Down syndrome are not all the same. Whilst there are certain physical characteristics that are more common, people with Down Syndrome share more physical features with other members of their family.

People with Down syndrome will have some degree of learning disability but everyone with Down syndrome is an individual, with their own strengths and weaknesses. They have their own personalities and traits that make them who they are.

Most people with Down syndrome will walk and talk and many will read and write. They can go to mainstream schools and lead fulfilling, semi-independent lives.

The Victorian physician Dr John Langdon Down, in 1866, identified 'Down Syndrome' after noticing similar characteristics in a specific group of patients.


Normansfield in Teddington, South West London, was the home and institution where Langdon Down and his family developed for the care of people with learning disabilities. This included people with Down syndrome.

The history of Down Syndrome


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