By: Steve Bond, BScPhm, RPh, CDE

You may notice that your colleagues, friends or family are wearing mismatched or unusual socks today. Is this a fashion statement?  A laundry mishap? Or is there more to this?  In fact, this is a purposeful movement not unlike the burn the bra movement for women’s rights.  Unusual socks are meant to signify that being unique and different is awesome and wonderful — like an individual born with Down syndrome.  In Canada, we have 45,000 individuals with Down syndrome.  It is important to understand that a person with Down syndrome isn’t afflicted with or suffering from Down syndrome; nor is it a disease.   It is a genetic condition where there is an extra copy of a gene.  Genes are what make up who we are. How we look.  We all have 46 Genes or 23 pairs of genes.   In Down syndrome, there is an extra gene at Gene 21. This causes the individual to be different (much like the unusual socks).  People with Down syndrome lead normal lives; they can attend college or university, work and get married.

Certain characteristics are common amongst those with Down syndrome:

  • Small, flat nose
  • Almond-shaped eyes that have an upward slant
  • Smaller limbs and body frame
  • A gap between the first and second toes that is larger than that of a typically developed individual
  • Low muscle tone
  • Single deep crease across the palm of the hand

There are a number of health concerns that parents must recognize when dealing with a child who has Down syndrome:

  • roughly half will have heart issues
  • some children have intestinal issues requiring surgery
  • eye issue such as crossed eyes, near or far-visual impairment and cataracts may occur
  • hearing loss may be an issue
  • thyroid issues and leukemia occur with increased risk
  • intellectual disability which ranges from mild to moderate

So wear your odd, unusual or mismatched socks proudly.  When someone asks you about them, tell them about how unique and amazing people with Down syndrome truly are.  And as always, take  care of yourselves and each other.