Down syndrome (or Down’s syndrome) is a genetic disorder that typically causes a delay in the way a person develops, both mentally and physically.
It occurs in about 1 in 800 infants. More than 5350 babies with Down syndrome are born in the USA every year, and an estimated 250 100 people in America have this disorder. Though women of any age can have a newborn with Down’s syndrome, the chances of having a baby with this condition rises as a woman gets older.
About Down Syndrome
It is a common condition that causes some level of learning disabilities and characteristic physical features.
Many newborns are diagnosed with this disorder after birth and can have eyes that slant upward and outward, a small mouth with a protruding tongue and flat back of their head, below-average length and weight at birth, and other features.
Developmental and intellectual problems of every person with Down’s syndrome can range from pretty mild to moderate, and some individuals are healthy while other have serious health issues, like heart defects.
Children with this disorder have a different facial appearance. Infants with this syndrome usually they grow slowly and may remain shorter than other kids the same age. Generally, developmental signs, as crawling and sitting, take place at about twice the age of infants without impairment.
Characteristics of Down Syndrome
Though kids with Down syndrome have certain common physical features, they don’t look the same. These children look more like their parents, or other family members, than other children. They also vary in abilities and personalities. Every individual born with this syndrome can have a degree of learning disabilities, but the levels of disability are different to each person.
- Physical appearance
People with this syndrome often have some physical characteristics. However, not every person will have all of them. The most common physical characteristics include:
- Flat nasal bridge and small nose
- Slating eyes
- Small head with flat back
- Small and unusually shaped ears
- Protruding tongue
- Short neck
- Short height
- Sandal gap
- Broad hands and short fingers
- Below-average length and weight at birth
- Learning disability
Every person with this syndrome have a certain degree of delayed development and learning disabilities, but this features can vary in each individual. People with this condition can be slower to learn some skills, as:
A person with Down’s syndrome can gain these skills if takes more time. 1 in every 10 kids also experience some difficulties as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and ASD (autism spectrum disorder).
Types of Down Syndrome
There are 3 types of Down’s Syndrome:
- Trisomy 21 (means there is an additional copy of chromosome 21 in each cell. It is the most common type of this syndrome)
- Mosaicism (occurs when an infant is born with an additional extra chromosome in certain cells. Individuals with mosaic Down’s syndrome have a tendency to develop fewer symptoms than people with trisomy 21)
- Translocation (infants have just an extra part of chromosome 21)
Health problems Associated with Down Syndrome
While many people with this syndrome have few other health issues, there is numerous condition that appears more frequently in people with Down’s syndrome.
Here is a list of the most common health problems that can occur:
- Heart defects – these issues may require an early treatment in order to prevent heart failure.
- Eye, hearing and dental issues – these problems can affect intellectual and language development, as well as listening skills to a child with Down’s syndrome.
- Seizures – can occur often in a person who have this syndrome.
- Respiratory infections – some infants can have an impaired immune system that will make it difficult for them to fight off viruses and infections.
- Sleep problems – Down’s syndrome can cause frequent waking, sleep apnea, and restlessness.
- Skin problems – these problems can affect teens with this syndrome, and they include: acne, dry skin, folliculitis, fungal infections (of the nails and skin) and atopic dermatitis.
- Digestive problems – celiac disease (inability to break gluten protein), intestinal blockages and constipation are the most common problems for people with Down’s syndrome. These issues usually require a special diet.
- Poor muscle strength, weak ligaments and unstable joints
Sometimes, people who have this syndrome may not be able to tell their parents or the doctor if they are in pain or simply don’t feel well. Instead, their behavior may easily change. Furthermore, they may stop doing stuff that they usually used to do. These are signs of a serious medical problem. Parents should talk to the doctor if they notice that the child with this kind of disorder behaves in a new different way. Anxiety and depression may be also signs in this kind of situation.
Risk of Down Syndrome
Screening for down’s syndrome during pregnancy is usually offered as a routine part of the prenatal care in the USA. Evaluation should be made in cases when the pregnant woman is over 35 and the father of the baby is over 40, or there is a family history of Down’s syndrome.
As we mentioned, the risk growths the older the parents are. Research shows that the age of the both parents is certainly important. For example, a father over 41 has twice the risk of having a newborn with this syndrome.
Other parents that are also at higher risk of having an infant with this disorder are ones who carry the genetic translocation.
It is very significant to remember that no one of these factors mean that you will definitely have a child with Down’s syndrome, but statistically, they can put you at greater risk.
Life with Down syndrome
Though there is no any “cure” for this syndrome, there are ways to help infants with the condition develop into fulfilled and healthy people who are able to achieve some level of independence right for them. That process includes:
- Early intervention program that can provide support for kids and parents
- Access to good medical center, including a range of various specialists
- Learning good parenting skills and lead ordinary family life
- Support and education groups to help parents and families
Improved support and education can give great opportunities for people with this condition. This includes:
- being able to leave the house
- form new friendships and relationships
- gain employment
- lead a mostly independent life
However, it’s important to remember that every child is different and it’s not possible to predict how a person will develop.
Down Syndrome Treatment
Home Treatment, basic parenting tips
Parents play the most important role in the life of a person with Down’s syndrome. They should be really patient, and encourage the child as she or he learns. Some basic home treatments include:
- Self- feeding. Parents and families should teach the child to eat independently.
- Dressing. Learn the child how to pick clothes and dress. Parents must take extra time to practice and explain.
- Communication. Simple measures at first (as a baby and little kid) and language programs at specialized centers little bit later.
- Motor development milestone, as walking, playing, and doing other stuff in nature. Parents can work alone or with an aid of a physical
- Hygiene. Parents should dedicate time to learning their child certain important hygiene steps, to establish a basic daily routine for washing hands, bathing and etc. As the child gets older, this becomes ever more important. Progressively parents should add new tasks to the daily routine, as putting on deodorant, making a simple hairstyle, etc.
- Encourage the child to socialize, learn and be active.
- Enroll the child through age three in a good intervention program to train and encourage its development.
Schooling and support centers
Apart from education and support center, The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) is just another place that parents can look for national programs. Available programs begin with interventions in early childhood. Federal law requires that the USA offer therapy programs with special education therapists and teachers to help children and families. On these therapies the children can learn:
- social skills
- sensory skills
- motor skills
- language abilities
- cognitive abilities
Children with this disorder usually have age-related milestones, so some infants may learn more slowly than other children with this condition.
The school is really important part of the life of an infant with this disorder, regardless of intellectual abilities. Schools (public and private) support individuals with this kind of disorder with integrated classrooms and special education programs. Here children can build important life skills.
Down syndrome can’t be prevented. However, there are various things that parents and families can do to help the child live healthy and happy life.
If you are having a child with Down’s syndrome, you need to develop a close relationship with medical experts who understand the unique challenges of this condition. People with this syndrome need to be guarded more often from common colds. Because of this kind of problems, children with Down syndrome usually require additional support ad they grow up and extra help at school.
For more information, help and support you can visit the National Association for Down Syndrome and the National Down Syndrome Society.