Down Syndrome is the most common known cause of intellectual disability. An extra copy of chromosome 21 (trisomy 21) causes it. For some unexplained reason the child has 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. It is the result of a genetic accident at the time of conception or soon after and not caused by anything the parents might have done before or during pregnancy.
Down syndrome affects people of all ages and races irrespective of economic levels or culture. It is one of the most frequently occurring chromosomal anomalies found in humans, occurring approximately once in every 660 births. In Malta it is recorded that, on average, one child per month is born with Down Syndrome. Down syndrome is recognisable at birth because of some typical physical characteristics and later confirmed by chromosome analysis. People who have Down syndrome do have features in common each person is an individual, with a unique appearance, personality and possibly a different set of abilities. The physical characteristics of the syndrome are no indication of the child's intellectual ability.
It is NOT a disease and cannot be treated.
In the past, people wwho have Down syndrome were expected to achieve little. With early help and stimulation the chances of Down syndrome people enjoying life and reaching their full potential are greatly increased. It is called Down Syndrome after John Langdon Down, the doctor who first pointed it out in 1866.