Contributed by – Healthians team
Down Syndrome is not a disease, defect or disorder. It’s a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has always been a part of the human condition. The only characteristic in the genetic structure in all those with Down Syndrome is the presence of extra genetic material. The impact of this extra gene varies in each and every individual.
Because of the fact that Down Syndrome impacts everyone differently, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to caring for the child. However, doctors believe, the sooner a child gets help, the better would be the development. There are a few therapies that may help ease disabilities caused by it. We will discuss those therapies here but before that here are a few things that you should know about Down Syndrome.
Things that you should know about Down Syndrome and people born with it
- The presence of a third copy of the 21st chromosome is the cause of Down Syndrome. This makes them a little extraordinary with 47 chromosomes instead of 46.
- Only know species to survive this genetic anomaly are humans.
- The word “retarded” has been banned in medical writings and saying a person has “downs”, “afflicted with” or “suffering from it” is inappropriate and offensive.
- Down Syndrome is associated with mild to moderate disabilities with learning, delay in growth and certain facial features and low muscle tone.
- The exact reason for the occurrence of Down Syndrome is unknown. Sometimes, it is linked with the age of the mother and family history.
- Certain medical tests during pregnancy and screenings can help detect Down Syndrome before birth.
- Those born with Down Syndrome are more prone to various infections due to low resistance.
- The life expectancy of kids with Down Syndrome has reached an average of 50-60 years.
Treatments and therapies for Down Syndrome
While there’s no cure for Down Syndrome, there are some treatments, therapies and support available that can help improve the quality of life of those affected. The exact course of treatment depends on the individual considering their age, overall health and personal strength and limitations.
Speech-language therapy can start as early as infancy. Communication and language skills of the child are addressed and articulation, cognitive skills and strength of the oral muscles (tongue and lips) are focused upon in this therapy. The overall goal of speech-language therapy is to improve the child’s communication abilities.
Physical therapy focuses on how a person moves. Children with Down Syndrome may have poor muscle tone and smaller hands. Physical therapy can help alleviate the difficulties caused by these traits. The regimen might include strengthening and toning muscles, improving overall coordination, balance and posture.
Occupational therapy aims to improve the day-to-day skills necessary for living a healthy life and successfully navigating society. In this therapy, the focus is on improving fine motor skills and the performance of daily tasks like getting dressed, brushing teeth and eating. As the child grows older, the focus of the therapy shifts to skills like writing and using a computer.
Devices that help a person with a disability function better are used in this therapy. These devices can be anything from hearing aids and seat cushions to walking aids and mobile phones with large buttons. Learning via interaction and implementing sight, sound and touch make the lessons more accessible and appealing.
Supporting a child with Down Syndrome
When you learn your child has Down Syndrome, you may experience a range of emotions. You may not know what to expect and you may worry about your ability to care for a child with a disability. The best you can do here is: stay informed and extend your support in whatever way you can. You can consider these steps to prepare yourself to take care of the child.
Talk to your health advisor about early intervention programs – Early education programs offer children with Down Syndrome stimulation at an early age. Such programs can help develop motor, language, social and self help skills.
Educational options for school – As per your child’s need, they may attend regular classes or special education classes or both. A health care team may help you understand your child’s needs and may also recommend appropriate schools.
Reach out to families who are dealing with the same issues – You can find support groups in your community or personally reach out to families who are dealing with the same issues. They are the best sources of understanding and support.
Participate in social and leisure activities – Make time for family outings and look for social activities like sports or dance classes. Some adaptations might be needed but your child would get to enjoy social and leisure activities.
Encourage independence – Extend your support to help the child perform tasks like packing lunch, managing hygiene and dressing appropriately on his/her own.