Down syndrome is a lifelong genetic condition that is present from birth. The name comes from John Langdon Down, an English physician who published the first accurate description of the syndrome in 1866. The disorder is due to the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 2. Distinct facial features characterize it at first. Children with Down syndrome experience delayed physical growth and intellectual disability. Here are 10 things to know about Down syndrome and how it affects people.
1. It’s A Genetic Abnormality
Down syndrome occurs with the presence of the third copy of chromosome 21. This event happens during cell division while the baby is developing in the womb. Chromosomes are packages of genes in the body. They contain information on how the baby forms and how the body functions.
Down syndrome is a result of an extra copy referred to as Trisomy 21. People with Down syndrome tend to look similar in physical appearance (1). But in reality, they are different. Most of them will have features of both or one of their parents.
2. There Are Three Types of Down Syndrome
People may not be able to tell the difference, but there are three types of Down syndrome. The first is Trisomy 21, which occurs in 95% of all cases of the condition.
The second one is Translocation Down syndrome. Here, an extra chromosome is attached or “trans-located” to a different chromosome. Instead of connecting to a separate chromosome 21. It affects only 3% of people with the condition.
The third one, which is the Mosaic Down syndrome, only affects 2% of people with Down syndrome. This is when some cells have 3 copies of chromosome 21 while other cells have two.
3. Mother’s Age Increases the Tendency
Maternal age is one of the things to know about Down syndrome. This means the mother’s age is an important factor in Down syndrome occurrence. Women who are in their twenties are less likely to have a child with the condition. Women that are 35 years plus are more likely to have a child with the condition (2).
But, the majority of people born with the condition come from mothers in their twenties. That makes sense because birth rates are higher with that group of women.
4. No Cure
At the moment, there is no cure for Down syndrome. People with the condition will need plenty of care and attention. Parents of children with Down syndrome will need education on handling the situation.
With this education, they can structure a means of helping the child do better. In countries across the world, the school system gives them special attention. In some places, education is part of their healing process.
5. Experts Yet To Know Why It Occurs
We all know what leads to Down syndrome. What many don’t know is why it occurs. If this question gets an answer, parents may be able to get better help. There are allegations of gene therapies by experts for this situation. But they have not done practical or public tests about it.
What is most common today is the focus on dealing with health conditions. Experts are searching for ways to help people deal with health-related issues.
6. Down Syndrome Can Be Diagnosed Before Birth
A prenatal examination is very important for expectant mothers. It offers an insight into what is coming and what the parents should expect. Some people get to know the gender of the child and other features beforehand. Down syndrome scan diagnostics on expectant mothers can identify it.
7. Predisposed To Certain Medical Conditions
One of the things to know about Down syndrome is the predisposition to medical conditions. People with the condition will deal with heart disease and cognitive decline.
They also struggle with sleep apnea, immune disorders, leukemia, and spinal problems. These health conditions vary from person to person. After birth, the child gets close monitoring to identify these conditions (3). Once identification of the condition is complete, treatments and therapies will follow.
8. People with the Condition Can Do Many Things
There is an erroneous belief among people that Down syndrome makes kids dull. People with Down syndrome can do most of what other people can do. Many of them even attend regular school and compete with the rest of the class.
People with Down syndrome work in product assembly, landscape gardening, and janitorial services. They also do well working with others and organizing to achieve a goal. Also, they can be great parents. Women with Down syndrome can have children. Although, there is a 50% chance the child will inherit their condition.
Unfortunately, only a few men with Down syndrome have been documented as fathering children. Many men with this condition may never be able to father a child at all. There are many people with the condition of raising healthy children and adding value to society.
9. Life Expectancy Is On the Increase
About half a century ago, people with Down syndrome had a life expectancy of 25 years. Today, many of them live up to their 50s and 60s. The major cause of this is an improvement in medical care and support by family members. What causes death are those conditions like heart defects and immune problems (4). Once you settle that part, the rate of survival is higher.
Improvement in social life and getting employment is also helping them live longer. Less discrimination is also helping in so many ways.
10. They Thrive With Love and Care
Important things to know about Down syndrome are that it doesn’t destroy emotions. People with the condition have feelings. They can be happy, sad, excited, and angry. If you treat them like outcasts, it reduces their chances of survival.
People with Down syndrome do better when they have love and care. They grow better, improve in wisdom, and develop important social skills. Many of them even get to manage a successful career. They need family support to grow and achieve great things in life. Help them live a healthy and fruitful life through mentorship, patience, and education.
Suggestion for Improving Communication With People With Down syndrome
- Position yourself face-to-face to ensure you have direct eye contact.
- Always use simple language to communicate and in short sentences.
- Listen carefully and ask them to repeat instructions from time to time.
- Use facial expressions, gestures, and signs to support speech.
- Be patient with them by giving them time to understand and give answers.
Nothing can be done to prevent Down syndrome either before, during, or after pregnancy. This genetic disorder is no one’s fault, and coming to terms with it is not easy. But there are some things you can do to help your child and yourself, like coming to terms with reality and making things work for him or her. As a parent, you have to learn to become a nurse and physiotherapist, besides doing the regular chores at home. Here are a few things to remember as a parent.
- Be patient
- Start by loving them
- Help them to progress to the greatest extent possible.
- Teach them some pre-language skills. Examples include gestures, visual aids, facial expressions, imitation, and eye-contact.
- Programs such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, and extra personal attention and emotional support for the child should start soon after birth. (5)