SSD and Down Syndrome
When one-year-old Lucas was chosen as the “spokesbaby” for Gerber’s latest marketing campaign, his bright smile and cheerful demeanor made him the ideal representative of the baby products company, which is known for its iconic logo of a bright-eyed, curious baby. But something sets Lucas apart from the other infants who have represented the company: he has Down syndrome.
What is Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when abnormal cell division results in an extra copy of chromosome 21. It affects about 6,000 babies every year. It is not thought to be an inherited condition, and is not linked to any environmental or behavioral factors. The most common type is a result of an abnormality within trisomy 19, which means that the person has a full extra copy of chromosome 21. A rarer type, called mosaic Down syndrome, occurs when only some cells have an extra copy of chromosome 21.
Down syndrome is usually apparent from birth, and often results in distinct physical characteristics:
- Small head and short neck
- Flattened face
- Upward slanting eyes
- Unusually small ears
- Broad, short hands with a single crease in the palm
It also leads to development delays and lifelong intellectual disabilities. It can result in significant challenges with everyday intellectual functions, like counting, recognizing patterns, or using logical thinking, and could also have trouble with functions like dressing themselves, cooking, or getting to work or school. In many instances, people with Down syndrome need constant or frequent supervision, and may not be able to live independently.
They are also at a higher risk for an array of other health conditions, including:
- Congenital heart disease
- Thyroid disorders
- Sleep apnea
The Impact on Daily Life
Due to the health risks and developmental delays, many people with Down syndrome are unable to have a job. When someone has development or intellectual disabilities, they may have difficulties with everyday tasks such as:
- Focusing on multiple tasks
- Grasping new concepts or information
- Exhibiting appropriate workplace behavior
- Distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable work performance
- Avoiding occupational hazards
When Down syndrome prevents someone from working, they may be able to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Qualifying for SSD
If someone has non-mosaic Down syndrome, like the type caused by an abnormality with trisomy 19, they will likely automatically qualify for SSD. This is because non-mosaic Down syndrome falls under the Social Security Administration’s List of Impairments, which includes common conditions that are severe enough to prevent someone from working. This also means that children, even though they have never worked before, can likely qualify for SSD.
Mosaic Down syndrome, on the other hand, is not under the List of Impairments. Though people with mosaic Down syndrome often have the same developmental challenges as people with non-mosaic Down syndrome, the severity of their condition might vary, which is why it does not automatically qualify. However, people with mosaic Down syndrome might be able to qualify for SSD based on related conditions, like heart disease or breathing difficulties.
When someone has Down syndrome, they and their loved ones face many complications, from everyday difficulties to the complex and often frustrating SSD process. But despite these many complications, many people with Down syndrome live long, fulfilling lives. Some, like Lucas the Gerber baby, actress Jamie Brewer, and model Madeline Stuart, even go on to break cultural barriers and prove that with support and acceptance, anyone can go on to do amazing things.
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