16 Jul 2013 07:54

This is the first of two features on the dilemma faced by parents who have children with Down Syndrome.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 (Bernama) -- Early this year, a DJ with a radio station in Ohio, United States was suspended from his job after he mocked a woman with Down Syndrome who accidentally called the radio station.

According to media reports, the 30-year-old woman wanted to call her friend but accidentally dialed the number of an Ohio radio station, and her slurred speech and limited words was ridiculed by the presenter of the radio show.

The woman's outraged family had described the episode as 'blatant bullying' and the DJ was subsequently suspended by the radio station's management. The suspended DJ later issued an apology.

Back home, last June in a reality show held by a local private television station, a celebrity was recorded saying the words that were perceived by some viewers as 'ridiculing' people with Down Syndrome.

This drew anger from parents with children who have Down Syndrome who felt the celebrity and television station were being insensitive to the people with Down Syndrome.

A petition asking the celebrity and television station to apologise over the insensitive remark was signed by some 880 people and subsequently the celebrity apologised saying that his words were 'misunderstood' and 'misinterpreted'.

If these two episodes are anything to go by, they only indicate the lack of awareness on intellectual disability caused by genetic abnormality, particularly Down Syndrome, a condition widespread across the globe.

This ignorance leads to dehumanising remarks against those suffering from the condition.


Most people are not clear of the fact that many intellectual disabilities are caused by genetic abnormalities.

Experts say the two most common genetic causes of intellectual disabilities are Down Syndrome and Fragile X Syndrome.

Down Syndrome (or Down's Syndrome in the United Kingdom ) is the most common genetic origin of intellectual disabilities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that across the globe, people with various disabilities made up some 10 per cent of a nation's population while Down Syndrome occurs in one out of every 800 births.

An error in cell division during prenatal growth results in an extra third chromosome 21 (instead of a pair). The extra chromosome is called Trisomy 21.

Down Syndrome is a genetic condition in which a person has an extra chromosome and as a result has some mental and physical disabilities.


According to experts on genetics, intellectual disability is a term used when a person has certain limitations in mental function and in skills such as communication, taking care of oneself, and social skills.

These limitations will cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than a typical normal child.

Children with intellectual disabilities (sometimes called cognitive disabilities or mental retardation) may take longer time to learn to speak, walk, and take care of their personal needs such as dressing or eating. They are likely to have trouble learning in school.

The experts say that these children will learn, but will take longer to do so.


A child psychologist Dr Annie Wong points out as children with Down Syndrome differ in ability, it is important that families and members of the intervention team identify and develop the every potential in the child.

Dr Wong says each child with Down Syndrome has his or her own talents and unique capacities, thus it is important to recognize these and reinforce them.

"In many important ways, children who have Down Syndrome are very much the same as other children.

"They have the same moods and emotions, and they like to learn new things, to play and enjoy life. You can help your child by providing as many chances as possible for him or her to do these things," she explains.

Down Syndrome is not a disease, nor is it contagious.

Its most common forms usually do not occur more than once in a family, she added.