By Assemblymember Marie Waldron
There are over 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States. About 5,100 babies are born with Down syndrome each year, about one in every 772 births, making it the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition.
In 1866, an English doctor named John Langdon Down published a scholarly work describing persons with Down syndrome, which earned him recognition as the syndrome’s “father.” Later research determined that the syndrome is caused by a full or partial copy of chromosome 21, which alters the course of the person’s development. Discoveries about the chromosomal causes of Down syndrome have led to great advances in research in recent years, and there is hope that preventing or correcting many of the challenges of Down syndrome will become possible in the future.
The frequency of Down syndrome births increases with the mother’s age. A 35 year old woman has about a one in 350 chance of conceiving a Down syndrome baby, and the chance increases to about one in 100 by age 40, and one in 30 by age 45. Down syndrome delays physical and intellectual development and is a common cause of intellectual disabilities. It can also lead to other problems including heart defects, hearing and vision impairment, upper respiratory infections, intestinal and thyroid problems, and more.
As Vice Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, I seek to ensure the dignity and autonomy of persons with Down syndrome. To help raise public awareness, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 21 World Down Syndrome Day, which has been observed since 2012. On March 16th, the State Assembly passed Assembly Concurrent Resolution 26 (ACR 26), which I co-authored, declaring March 19 through March 25 Down Syndrome Awareness Week, and March 21 California Down Syndrome Day.
Assemblymember Marie Waldron, R- Valley Center, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature.