One of the pivotal characters in The Dreamland Series is Danny Jefferson, a young man born with Down Syndrome. He works for the local grocery market where he is considered a dependable employee. Thanks to a retired teacher who saw his potential and made up for what he didn't receive in the public school system of his day, he gained basic academic skills and learned to shelve books in the local library, where he also became a favorite of the younger clientele.
Because Danny was born into a loving family who accepted him for himself, he developed the social skills to interact with society. However, to society at large, Danny is invisible as are many people with disabilities. But things going on around Danny are not invisible to him, and he emerges as an important player in the events occurring in Dreamland.
As a former special education teacher (who suffered the inevitable burn-out and frustration because of stifling rules and regs), I know too well the lost potential when developmentally-delayed children and adults are relegated to the second-class citizen status.
I enjoy writing about characters outside the mainstream--because, in fact, they should be in the mainstream.
Read the basic facts about Down Syndrome below. If you don't read anything else, read Myths and Truths About Down Syndrome. And the next time you're out and about and happen to see someone who looks and acts a little bit 'different', smile and say hello, and remember we're all the same deep down under the skin.
A Brief Overview of Down Syndrome
- The nucleus of each human cell contains 23 chromosomes, but chromosome #21 is ‘out of whack’, so to speak, a condition known as Down Syndrome occurs.
· Trisomy 21 occurs when there is an extra #21 chromosome.
· Mosaicism occurs when only some of the cells have the extra chromosome.
· Translocation occurs when #21 breaks off and attaches to #14.
- Trisomy 21 accounts for most cases of Down Syndrome, which was named in 1866 by Dr. John Langdon Down of England. Those with the distinctive facial features, which includes slightly slanted eyes, were once referred to as Mongoloids, suggesting an Asian/Chinese link. Other characteristics may include small stature and low muscle tone.
- Some children with Down Syndrome also have medical conditions affecting the heart and/or the endocrine system. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the survival rate for DS children has increased because of improved medical treatment from the age of nine to sixty or beyond.
- Down Syndrome is not genetic, with the exception of the translocation type in which one parent may be a carrier of a translocated chromosome. Maternal age increases the chance of giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome.
- Today, with prenatal testing, Down Syndrome can be diagnosed before birth. Tragically, statistics put the abortion rate for babies so diagnosed at between 80-90%.
For more in-depth information about Down Syndrome, visit the National Down Syndrome Organization website.