The 10 Most Common Characteristics of Down Syndrome

by Sharon Hopkins

Down syndrome can be described as a chromosomal condition that is caused by the presence of a third copy (all or part) of Chromosome 21. This disorder usually becomes evident at birth or shortly after that. Initially, infants suffering from Down syndrome may be of similar height and weight as normal babies. However, as they begin to grow and develop, they may be much smaller than their peers. Individuals who have Down syndrome also usually have distinctive facial and physical features, cognitive impairments and medical problems in common.

Given below are some of the common characteristics of Down syndrome

Physical Characteristics

There are several physical characteristics that are associated with this disorder, though not all are evident in everyone. The 10 most common physical characteristics of Down syndrome include –

  1. Brushfield spots or white spots on the iris of the eyes
  2. Extra space between the first and second toes on both the feet 
  3. Eyes that are almond-shaped 
  4. Flattened facial profiles 
  5. Hypotonia or poor muscle tone, which becomes evident in their posture 
  6. Joint hyper-flexibility, where they have an increased ability to extend their joints 
  7. Short and broad hands, with a single crease on the palm 
  8. Short neck 
  9. Slight upward tilt to the eyes 
  10. Tongue that sticks out most of the time

Mental Characteristics

Almost all the kids born with Down syndrome have at least some degree of mental retardation. Parents also see developmental delays in such children. Some of the mental characteristics of Down syndrome include –

  • Difficulties with complex reasoning
  • Short attention spans 
  • Slower learning than other children 
  • Trouble with judgment

It is hardly possible to predict the degree of mental retardation in an infant at birth. It is however possible to maximize the learning potential of an individual through early intervention, encouragement and good education.

Behavioral Characteristics

There are many common behavior patterns that can be observed in people who have Down syndrome. Some of the more common behavioral characteristics of Down syndrome include –

  • Being sociable and outgoing
  • Easy bonding with others 
  • Loving and affectionate nature 
  • Preference for routine 
  • Self-talk (the act of talking to themselves loudly, probably to process information)
  • Strong will or stubbornness

Medical Characteristic
Unfortunately, children who have Down syndrome could be at a high risk of certain medical problems. Some of the common medical conditions seen in children with Down syndrome include –

  • Atlantoaxial instability
  • Atopic dermatitis 
  • Congenital heart defects 
  • Gastrointestinal disorders 
  • Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism 
  • Poor immunity 
  • Recurring infections 
  • Respiratory problems 
  • Vision or hearing problems

There is also a higher incidence of leukemia and Alzheimer’s in those who have Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is often misunderstood by most people, including family and friends. It is important that a family that has a child with Down syndrome should have a strong support system in order to deal with the situation.


  • Facts about Down syndrome. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Accessed Feb. 14, 2011
  • Genetic conditions: Down syndrome. Genetics Home Reference. Accessed Feb. 14, 2011
  • Birth defects: Down syndrome. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Feb. 15, 2011

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