WHEN Horsham couple Josh and Sallie Koenig welcomed their first child three years ago, they were overjoyed but nervous.
For six months prior to Oskar's birth, they had known he had Down syndrome - a genetic condition whereby individuals receive 47 chromosomes in each of their cells instead of the usual 46.
People born with Down syndrome have unique physical features and can face health challenges.
But the Koenigs soon came to realise that raising a child with Down syndrome was no more challenging than raising any other child - a piece of experience they are keen to pass on to others in the Wimmera.
"Oskar being our first child, we didn't have any comparison - we didn't know if it would be any different to raising a child without Down syndrome," Mr Koenig said.
"But now we have Adeline (who was born in 2018) and a third child on the way, what I would say it's pretty much exactly the same.
"Oskar develops in his own way, but he's tracking really well at swimming lessons and in childcare. If there are still misconceptions out in the community, they're definitely not present in this household."
Down Syndrome Australia estimates there are now more than 13,000 people living with the condition nationwide.
While there is no national or state register of Australians with Down syndrome, the organisation estimates the number of people born with the condition each year is more than 270.
It says the rate of Australian babies born with Down syndrome is 1:1100 - lower than the global rate, due to high termination rates.
The organisation also says the extent to which people with Down syndrome exhibit the characteristics varies from one individual to another. Mr Koenig said Oskar was a perfect example of this.
"There's that misconception around that kids with Down syndrome are always happy, but Oskar throws a fair tantrum," he said.
"He doesn't sit still very well, he likes cars, balls and swimming and he loves to eat - except for vegetables.
"Characteristically, kids with Down Syndrome do develop behind the times, intellectually. Oskar is developmentally delayed and that's OK. He catches up and like any child, develops at his own pace."
Mrs Koenig said: "He's very loving and affectionate. He will give lots of people hugs, but I think that's just his nature, not necessarily anything to do with Down syndrome. He's an absolute joy and anyone lucky enough to know him, I hope, would agree."
Mr Koenig said the family considered itself lucky in many ways. Before his role as the executive officer of Uniting Wimmera, he was a teacher's aid at Horsham Special School.
"I like to think I had a fair bit of understanding about disability support, so (when Oskar was born) I was already prepared, in a way - as prepared as you can be," he said.
"Kids with Down syndrome are more susceptible to health problems like heart conditions and childhood leukaemia. Oskar gets tested every 12 months and thus far we've been very lucky, and it's good knowing he is more susceptible.
"We're lucky in Horsham in that if Oskar does require special education, we've got a pioneering school that does tremendous one-to-one support. Our plan is whatever Oskar needs, we'll get for him - whether it's here or elsewhere. The same goes for any of our children. But I think we're quite well equipped to cater for Oskar's needs in Horsham and we'll see what the future holds."
Last April, the Koenigs began an Instagram page, "Lessons From Oskar" aimed at educating people on their experiences raising him.
Mrs Koenig said the family attended several workshops on raising a child with Down syndrome after Oskar was born.
"There was a local camp at Halls Gap supported by Down Syndrome Victoria," she said. "As I understand it, they have lots of different events going on."
The next Horsham event will be the 2019 StepUP! for Down syndrome walk at Sawyer Park from 9.30am on Sunday.
All money raised from ticket sales will help fund Down Syndrome Victoria to provide services, programs and support to families like the Koenigs.
Mrs Koenig said eight to 10 families with members living with Down syndrome would participate. She said her family had been involved with the walk every year since Oskar was born.
"I suppose for anyone who doesn't have a family member or someone close to them (with Down syndrome) there might be some common misconceptions," she said.
"That's why it's important to have opportunities like this (event) to say it's not something to be scared of. We wouldn't want Oskar any other way."
October is Down syndrome Awareness Month.
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