October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, when we celebrate the abilities and achievements of individuals who have Down syndrome. This month, in the Massachusetts communities of Kingston, Wakefield and Dalton, a Buddy Walk® will help raise funds and awareness about inclusion. (Visit www.ndss.org for details.) The National Down Syndrome Society reports that many misconceptions still exist about the condition:

Myth: Down syndrome is rare and hereditary.

The condition is actually fairly common. One in every 691 babies is born with Down syndrome in the U.S. It is hereditary in only approximately 1 percent of all cases. The only known factor is that the risk increases with the age of the mother (over 35).

Myth: People with Down syndrome have severe cognitive delays.

Actually the cognitive delays of people with Down syndrome are generally mild to moderate.

Myth: Children with Down syndrome must be placed in special education programs.

Children across the country are being included in regular classrooms, for specific courses or for all subjects. Increasingly children with Down syndrome are graduating from high school with diplomas, participating in college and in some cases, receiving college degrees.

Myth: Down syndrome can’t ever be cured.

Researchers are making great strides on identifying the genes on chromosome 21 that cause the characteristics of Down syndrome. Scientists now believe that in the future it will be possible to improve, correct or prevent many of the problems associated with Down syndrome.