Look around your classroom at your schoolmates. One of the things you might notice is how different you all are. Other than age, you have many distinctive qualities. For example:

• Some of you have dark hair. Others have blond or red hair.

• Some kids are taller than others.

• You know good athletes, and other kids who would rather read a book or play an instrument.

• You might have kids in your class who were born with Down syndrome. Maybe you were born with it.

Now notice how much you’re all really alike. For instance:

• Your classmates like to play with friends, go to camp, see movies or try new sports.

• All of you probably enjoy watching TV shows and playing games – even your friends with Down syndrome.

Focus on ability

October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Down syndrome is a disability, but a lot of kids with it have many of the same capabilities as their peers, or kids of the same age.

This week, the Mini Page learns more about Down syndrome.

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome (DS) is a condition that people are born with. It isn’t contagious, and kids don’t grow out of it.

It happens because of an abnormality in the number of chromosomes.* Most people with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes instead of 46.

*Chromosomes are the parts of our cells that carry genes. Genes provide the information that decides the details about us – our hair color, how tall we are, etc.

A different kind of cookie

An expert on Down syndrome explained it this way:

Suppose you’re making sugar cookies. You use flour, sugar, butter and other ingredients to make the cookies. But if you add chocolate chips to the batter, you won’t have sugar cookies anymore. All the cookies will have chocolate chips – you can’t take them out.

When that extra chromosome gets added in, it changes almost every cell of the body, just like the chocolate chips show up in every cookie.

You still have a cookie, but it’s a little bit different.

Violinist Riggo Carillo lives in California. People with Down syndrome develop musical talent, become good at sports or work toward other goals, just as their peers do. Down syndrome was named for John Langdon Down, a doctor in England who described the condition in 1866. In 1959, a French doctor discovered its cause.