Health problems

Down syndrome causes challenges for kids and adults in a few different ways.

About half of babies born with Down syndrome have a problem with their heart. Some of these troubles can be corrected with surgery or with medicine. Some correct themselves as the child grows older.

Many kids with DS also have trouble with their vision and hearing. These, too, can often be corrected.


Kids with Down syndrome may learn more slowly than their peers. The condition can affect intelligence, but it’s different with each child.

Most kids with the condition are able to learn all the same subjects and skills as their friends; it just may take them a little longer.

Swimming for a cause

Swimmer Karen Gaffney was on a relay team that swam the English Channel in 2001. She has won two gold medals in Special Olympics.

Five years ago, Karen swam the length of Lake Tahoe in Nevada – 9 miles in 59-degree water. She did it to raise money for the National Down Syndrome Congress and to show others that people with Down syndrome are more like everyone else than different.

On the surface

You may notice that people with Down syndrome look a little different from others. Their faces may be flatter, and their eyes usually slant upward.

Kids with Down syndrome grow more slowly than their peers. Sometimes poor muscle tone makes it hard for them to speak clearly.

Meeting the challenge

According to experts, most kids who start to get help when they’re very young can achieve almost any goal.

They can run, jump, bike, swim or dance. They can do well in school and graduate from high school and college.

Adults with Down syndrome hold jobs, live on their own, and have romantic and friendly relationships.