Health Team

Those with Down syndrome living longer, better lives

Posted August 7, 2013
Updated August 9, 2013

— Ishan Munshi is a resource specialist at the Lenox Baker Children’s Hospital at Duke.

The 21-year-old also has Down syndrome.

In the Down syndrome program at the hospital, Munsi is someone that patients can look up to. That includes 16-year-old Matthew Schwab.

“I asked him how to get a girlfriend,” Schwab said of his most recent conversation with Munshi. “He had something quite interesting to (teach) about that.”

What was Munshi’s advice? “Be very gentle,” he told the teen. “Do not make a girl cry.”

Whether the topic is girlfriends, getting a job or going to college at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, like Munshi does, it all represents a dream for many people with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects one out of nearly 700 people born in the United States.

Schwab calls it being a self-advocate.

“What it means to be a self-advocate is to be real independent,” he said.

Man with Down syndrome inspires others to lead full lives Man with Down syndrome inspires others to lead full lives

Dr. Priya Kishnani, a Duke pediatrician and medical geneticist, says there are numerous advances for children born with Down syndrome, including the correction of heart defects and medicine to improve cognition.

They're living longer – often longer than their parents or caregivers.

“We've got to find ways to allow them to be independent in society and to make contributions to society,” Kishnani said.

Munshi's contribution is hope for others born with Down syndrome and for their families.

“They need freedom. They need to be happy, not feel sad and making the parents sad – that isn't good,” he said. “But it's a good thing to talk about how they feel from the heart.”

Munshi’s position with Duke is supported by funding from Anna's Angels, a Cary nonprofit that funds research and programs in Down syndrome.

7 Comments

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  • sat123 Aug 15, 10:35 a.m.

    "My question is, how would he know about girlfriends?"

    A friend of mine has Down Syndrome, and he is quite popular with the ladies. He often has more than one girlfriend at a time. I haven't asked how he defines "girlfriend", but still. He is capable of understanding and maintaining those relationships in a way that he finds fulfilling, which is great because he's such a sweet person.

  • diana123 Aug 14, 4:45 p.m.

    at whose expense?

  • whatelseisnew Aug 9, 4:36 p.m.

    "He is a poster child to change the minds of those who favor aborting those with Downs Syndrome."

    Well part of the problem is there is no way to know how severe the syndrome will be. A friend has a young teen with Downs. Intellectual capacity is equivalent to a two year old child. He is well loved and currently lives with his parents, but obviously he will never be capable of seeing to his own needs.

    My friend worries about what will happen if they get too old to be able to take care of their child.

  • Obamacare saves lives Aug 9, 10:18 a.m.

    My question is, how would he know about girlfriends?

  • djofraleigh Aug 8, 6:03 p.m.

    This guy is impressive. He is a poster child to change the minds of those who favor aborting those with Downs Syndrome. Doesn't that sound awful to say in this context? Why is the truth so disturbing to hear? Something is wrong. Keep featuring the outstanding people of diversity.

  • Huey Aug 8, 5:40 p.m.

    I watched this segment the other night and was very impressed. This young man is a great asset to the team at that hospital and I would hope to see more like him at other such hospitals. And his advice on girlfriends was right on.

  • cpdtg Aug 8, 4:36 p.m.

    They are the sweetest humans on this earth The are very special and loving people and a blessing to be around