The short answer is:
They are NOT always happy!
My daughter is not always happy. She experiences a wide range of emotions. She gets mad, frustrated, annoyed, happy, joyful, and everything in between. She is stubborn too. She is a FULL person.
Sometimes, when my daughter is throwing a fit, she runs to her room and throws herself on her bed (or the floor). My husband and I have joked about taping her throwing a fit, and titling it, “People with Down syndrome are always happy.” But then again, we respect her enough to know that would not be appropriate, and it would not be treating her with dignity and respect. I can imagine how hurt she would be knowing we had shared a video of her throwing a fit.
Actually, I don’t know of any human being that goes through life being “always happy.” Yes, some people have a more positive outlook in life, and perhaps some people with Down syndrome fall under that category: being friendly, offering a smile, being upbeat around other people, having a good time and enjoying life. But make no mistake, even the happiest person experiences sadness, loss, frustration, and anger.
And I have yet to meet someone with Down syndrome who is always happy. And I know a lot of people with Down syndrome!
When my daughter was born, some people offered comfort over her diagnosis saying, “At least she will always be happy.” Like that was the one positive thing about her diagnosis. Obviously, these were not comments coming from people who actually knew someone with Down syndrome, and certainly not from family members of someone who has Down syndrome. Actually, those comments were not encouraging, because I wanted my daughter to experience a full range of emotions, to be someone I could relate to. And she is, she is a much a person as I am and every other human walking on this earth.
In our personal experience the highs are high (not just happiness, but joyfulness) and the lows are low (not just sadness but something resembling devastation).
Overall, however, if you asked me if my daughter is a happy person, I would tell you, “Well yes, she is a pretty happy girl.” But here is the thing, I would tell you the same thing about my oldest daughter, or my husband, or my nephew, or my closest friend.
Happiness is just ONE of the many feelings we experience in life.
People with Down syndrome experience every single emotion you and I do. All of them. Thank goodness for that!