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Fact Sheet: Down Syndrome


Down syndrome is the most common and readily identifiable chromosomal condition associated with mental retardation. It is caused by a chromosomal abnormality: for some unexplained reason, cell development results in 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. This extra chromosome changes the typical development of the body and brain.


Approximately 4,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the U.S. each year, or about 1 in every 800 to 1,000 live births.


There are over 50 clinical signs of Down syndrome, but it is rare to find all or even most of them in one person. Individuals with Down syndrome are usually smaller than their non-disabled peers, and their physical as well as intellectual development is slower.

Besides having a distinct physical appearance, individuals with Down syndrome frequently have specific health-related problems. A lowered resistance to infection makes these individuals more prone to respiratory problems. Visual problems such as crossed eyes and far- or near-sightedness are higher in people with Down syndrome, as are mild to moderate hearing loss and speech difficulty.

Implications of Down Syndrome on Employment

People with Down syndrome display a wide range of talents, skills, and abilities, and have a wide range of support needs. Some people with Down syndrome can live and work fairly independently, while others need a significant amount of assistance and support. As with people with other disabilities, people with Down syndrome can work successfully in the community if they are placed in jobs that are a good match for their skills, abilities and interests, with appropriate levels of support available.

Resources for further information on Down syndrome:

American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR)

444 N. Capitol Street N.W.; Suite 846
Washington, DC 20001-1512
Voice: (202) 387-1968; (800) 424-3688
Fax: (202) 387-2193
Web site:

The Arc of the United States (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens)

1010 Wayne Avenue, Suite 650
Silver Spring, MD 20910
500 East Border Street; Suite 300
Arlington, TX 76010
Voice: (301) 565-3842
Fax: (301) 565-5342
Web site:

National Down Syndrome Congress

7000 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, N.E.
Lake Ridge 400 Office Park
Building #5, Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30328
Voice: (770) 604-9500; (800) 232-6372
Fax: (770) 604-9898
Web site:

National Down Syndrome Society

666 Broadway, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10012
Voice: (212) 460-9330; (800) 221-4602
Fax: (212) 979-2873
Web site:

Additional resources are listed in the resource section at the end of this manual.

Adapted from NICHCY Fact Sheet Number 4(FS4), 1998

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013
1-800-695-0285 (Voice/TT)

This fact sheet is made possible through Cooperative Agreement #H030A30003 between the Academy for Educational Development and the Office of Special Education Programs. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U. S. Government. This information is in the public domain unless otherwise indicated. Readers are encouraged to copy and share it, but please credit the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY).

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