Friday, October 5, 2012

Do Kids With Down Syndrome Look the Same?

It is a common myth that kids and people with Down syndrome all look the same. While there are some characteristic physical features that set them apart, kids (and adults) with Down syndrome are individuals, and they resemble their family of origin more than one another.

My friend Shelley adopted these kids (yes, all 5 of them!) They come from different countries, and they are not biologically related to one another. I don't have to tell you that, because all you have to do is look at their picture to realize how different they are form each other. So do kids with Down syndrome look the same? Obviously, they do not!

Look at them individually and you can tell each of them has Down syndrome, but put them together, and their differences jump out. They look nothing alike, even if you can tell they all have an extra chromosome.

Saying that people with Down syndrome all look the same is like saying that all Hispanic people look the same, all Asian people look the same, all white people look the same. Yes, there are certain traits or characteristic specific to the people group, but the differences within people groups are many.

Yes, when we are not familiar with a specific people group, we might think they all look the same. However, after a while, we begin to notice the differences. In college, I had a friend from Jamaica. Our school was primarily white, and one time he confessed to me he could not tell people apart. I said, "But they have different eye color, hair color, some are taller than others, different noses, mouths, teeth!" It was all the same to him. Yet after a while, he began to pick up on those differences. Turns out Sarah and John were not multiplied but just 2 people among the crowd.

Individuals with Down syndrome do have some physical features that set them apart. Like the almond shaped eyes with the epichaneal folds, the small bridge of the nose, maybe small ears. I wrote a post about those characteristic physical features, and that post alone drives more people to my blog than anything else I have written! Click here to read that post.

Nonetheless, even within the similarities, there are vast differences among individuals with Down syndrome.

And if you want to learn more about Shelley's family, visit her blog at

And remember, it is Down syndrome awareness month. Visit my writer blog and follow along as I share my personal story there.


  1. At first I just looked at the picture and saw "only1mom" and thought "How could those kids have come from the same mom? They don't look alike at all"...which shows that I wasn't very smart to think first "oh they might be adopted" but I was pretty smart to notice they don't look alike! You're exactly right, Ellen, when you say that it's when we aren't familiar with a people group that they all look alike to us. We remember experiencing that at first in China. Strangely enough, when we first came back to the States after being in Taiwan for almost 7 years, we thought Americans looked so much alike! Anyway, great post!


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