What Is Down syndrome?Down syndrome is a condition in which a baby is born with an extra chromosome number 21. The extra chromosome is associated with delays in the child’s mental and physical development, as well as an increased risk for health problems.
As a result of these development issues, the children are also at greater risk for associated physical features, such as heart defects. Many of them will also experience delayed milestones and various health risks, but there are resources that parents can utilize to help mitigate those risks.
What Causes Down Syndrome?
Babies inherit a wide range of traits from their parents. The genome is the hereditary information in our DNA and contains genes that make us who we are. These genes control how our bodies look, work, think, and act.
In most cases of Down syndrome, children get an extra 21 chromosome because it attaches to another chromosome. Not often, this extra genetic material causes physical features and developmental delays in people with Down syndrome. This can happen if the extra chromosome only attaches to one or if it happens twice to another chromosome.
How Can Down syndrome affect Kids?
Children with Down syndrome have different physical features, like a flat facial profile and upward slant to the eyes. Low muscle tone is also often a factor in children with Down syndrome, but it becomes more obvious as the child ages. Kids will reach milestones in the developmental stages of sitting up, crawling, and walking though typically later than others.
Low muscle tone may be indicated by issues in sucking and feeding problems which occur during infancy as well as gastro esophageal reflux and constipation issues. At birth, babies with Down syndrome tend to grow at a slower rate when compared to other newborns while they typically remain shorter than their peers.
Toddlers and older kids may have speech delays or self-care problems like feeding, dressing, or using the toilet. Down syndrome affects how children learn differently that depend on severity of intellectual disability. Kids can develop skills throughout life and there’s no way to tell at birth what they might do as they grow up.
What Medical Problems Can Happen With Down syndrome?
Determining whether a child has a serious medical issue is important for parents. Some kids with Down syndrome don’t experience these issues, but others can. Many children go to special clinics that specialize in caring for people with Down syndrome.
If you don’t live near a clinic, your primary care doctor can help coordinate care for your child. About half of all children who are born with Down syndrome have congenital heart defects. All newborns with Down syndrome should be checked for this by performing an ultrasound on the heart (echocardiogram). Almost half of all kids also have hearing and vision problems.
Hearing loss, vision problems, and problematic language or learning are common among those who have Down syndrome. Many kids will need to see other specialists as well in order to manage their various health conditions including thyroid, stomach and intestinal issues, breathing issues such as sleep apnea or asthma, and upper-neck instability and impingement (neck pain or changes to walking or bladder/bowel control).
Determining whether a child has one of these health conditions can only be determined by checking them out by having them see medical specialists such as an otolaryngologist (ear nose throat specialist), audiologist, ophthalmologist, and others
How Is Down syndrome Diagnosed?
There are two types of prenatal tests that can screen for Down syndrome in a fetus: screening tests estimate the chances of a fetus having Down syndrome and diagnostic tests can tell if their condition is true or not. Screening tests are cost-effective and easy to do, but they don’t give a definitive answer about whether a baby has Down syndrome–so these tests are used to help parents decide whether to have more diagnostic tests.
Diagnostic tests correctly diagnose Down syndrome, but because this involves getting some of the baby’s cells while inside the uterus, there is a risk of miscarriage, complications and other risks–and it only gives reliable results after 20 weeks into pregnancy. If you’re unsure about which test is most accurate for you, your doctor or a genetic counselor can help you decide which test is best for you!
How Can Parents Help?
The unpredictable and often stressful life of parents of kids with Down syndrome is all too familiar to us. The situation is difficult, but many parents find that talking with other parents online can help them through it. Learning as much as they can about the condition helps ease fears. Children with Down syndrome benefit from getting early intervention services as soon as possible.
Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech/feeding therapies are helpful, and Early Childhood Education professionals can work with your child to encourage development. States provide early intervention services to kids with disabilities from birth to age 3. Count on your doctor, nurse, developmental pediatrician or social worker for resources in your area. When kids with Down syndrome turn three years old, they’re guaranteed educational services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Under IDEA, districts must provide “a free appropriate education in the least restrictive environment” and an individualized education program (IEP) for each child. Where your child should go to school is a hard decision. The needs of some kids with this disability may be best met in a specialized program; some children with Down syndrome are placed into regular classrooms when appropriate and every student benefits from inclusion when appropriate shod be implemented by school staff creating celebrations of their