Thursday, April 28, 2011

Myth: All People With Down Syndrome Look Alike

Every once in a while I see a photo of Ellie and it is like looking at a younger version of my niece Haleigh.  Or pictures of Andrew when he was just a wee little lad.  Or my mother.  Actually, I see my mother in Ellie a lot.  It feels sort of strange looking at the baby version of your parent.  Then there is one photo of Ellie where my father gasped and said "that looks like my sister Kris!".  Of course there are moments where Ellie looks like me--the wide-eyed look she gets or the big open-mouthed grin.

Take a wild guess which child is me in this picture.

Did you guess the little redheaded, tongue-sticking out Sassy pants?

You are correct!

Notice any similarities?

How about now?

You see it?  Yep, me too.

Yes, Ellie looks like her family.  True, she has some facial characteristics consistent with Ds and she does have that fabulous, what I like to call "monkey toe", sandal gap variation.

Ellie reminds of my niece Haleigh so much here.

That is me on the left.  I used to be adorable.  
Then I got older.  See the hairline? The wide eyes?

A common belief among the general population is that all people with Down syndrome look alike.  That is a misconception.  Yes, those with an extra copy of the 21st  chromosome have similar characteristics, BUT they look like their family members.

This was taken about 1 year ago.  My father thought Ellie resembled a younger version of his sister Kris.  I am sorry to say that I do not have any pictures of Aunt Kris so we will just have to take Mr. B's word.

A person with Ds may have all or just a few of the following features:

  • Slanted eyes / epicanthal folds
  • Low set ears
  • Flatten face
  • White spots on the colored part (iris) of the eye
  • Small head/microcephaly
  • Small midface
  • Simian crease of the hands
  • Sandal gap toes
  • Smaller hands/feet
  • Shorter femurs and humerus

It is the combination of these physiological traits that may cause a parent or health care provider to consider Ds.  For Ellie, it was her slanted eyes and sandal gap toes (The Down syndrome Footprint).  That and her low muscle tone and heart murmur among other things.  [I remember all of us anxiously awaiting her karotype results to see if she did indeed have three 21s.  "Ooh, I see the Ds in her eyes.  Nope, I don't see it and therefore she cannot possibly have Ds." and on and on it went.]

Who's her daddy?

This was taken last year at Andrew's company picnic.  
I was sitting on a bench with Ellie while Andrew was off doing something that involved a grill.  
These two guys walk by and take one look at Ellie and say 
"She has to be Andrew T's kid.  Looks just like him.".

These are just some traits.  All children inherit their "looks" from their biological family--mom, dad, grandparents, etc.  My daughter's eyes are clearly from my side of the family but she has "The Theurer cheeks".  You know, those big, huge, chunky cheeks that take up half of their faces as infants?  Yep, Ellie had them as did most of her cousins.  Where do you think her nickname "Chunky Chicken" came from? Ellie has also been blessed with my hubby's gorgeous Pantene-commercial locks as opposed to my crazy, unruly curls.  Oh and the round Croatian head.  A nice round head perfect for hats, bows and pigtails.

Awww.  Look at the wee little bambina! 
See those chunky cheeks?  Munch. Munch.
(The Chunky Chicken)

I am told the left photo is of Andrew, however, 
the photo looks more like Mama Dunja.
Nonetheless, see the cheeks?  See the cheeks!

Haleigh also had "The Theurer cheeks!"

  This is  Ellie.  There is a photo of Andrew in his snow gear.  Almost identical.

Still not convinced Ellie is our child?

There!  Our looks combined AND my personality shining through.

This brings me back to the best advice one can ever hear when told that their child might or has Down syndrome:  he or she is a baby/child first.  Love her.  Care for her.  The Ds is just something she has.  It isn't who she is. Designer genes or chromosomely enhanced.  Baby first.

100% Ellie Bellie Bear-Bear


National Institute of Child Health and Development.  Viewed April 26, 2011 at

Down Syndrome Pregnancy View April 26, 2011 at


  1. i love that! its inspiring to read, you are fabulous! x

  2. Loved this post. Your daughter definately looks like she is a part of your family for sure! My mom always tells me that Emily looks just like me when I was a baby, I haven't gotten my baby pictures out to see, but I will have to do that to see for myself.


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