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Understanding and Dealing with Down syndrome

Just like how you can spot Asians by their looks, so is the case with the physical look of a Down syndrome patient. Down syndrome patients of every race and tribe look alike. They all have features of low muscle tone (babies appear “floppy”), flat facial features, with a small nose, upward slant to the eyes, small skin folds on the inner corner of the eyes, small abnormally shaped ears, single deep crease across the centre of the palm, hyper-flexibility (excessive ability to extend joints), fifth finger has only one flexion furrow instead of two, extra space between the big toe and the second toe, and enlarged tongue that tends to stick out.This varies from person to person. But in most cases it is mild to moderate.

Down syndrome is a set of physical and mental traits caused by a gene problem that happens before birth which is a lifelong condition. But with care and support, children who have Down syndrome can grow up to have healthy, happy, productive lives.

Normally, a person has 46 chromosomes. But most people with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes. In rare cases, other chromosome problems cause Down syndrome. Having extra or abnormal chromosomes changes the way the brain and body develop.

Experts don’t know the exact cause, but some things increase the chance that you’ll have a baby with Down syndrome.

Many doctors believe that the risk increases for women age 35 and older.

You have a brother or sister who has Down syndrome.

You had another baby with Down syndrome.

Complications from Down syndrome

Many children with Down syndrome are also born with heart, intestine, ear, or breathing problems. These health conditions often lead to other problems, such as airway (respiratory) infections or hearing loss. But most of these problems can be treated.

Your doctor may suggest that you have tests during pregnancy to find out if your baby has Down syndrome.

Dealing with Kids Down syndrome

Your child will likely take more time than other children to reach certain milestones. But his or her achievements are just as significant and exciting to watch. Be patient, and encourage your young child as he or she learns.

As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, you play an important role in helping your child reach his or her full potential. You and your child will have challenges and accomplishments.

  • You can help your baby and young child strengthen muscles through directed play. As your child gets older, you can work with a physical therapist and your doctor to design an exercise programme to help your child maintain and increase muscle strength and physical skills.
  • Help your child learn to eat independently by sitting down together at meals. Use gradual steps to teach your child how to eat. Start with allowing your child to eat with his or her fingers and offering thick liquids to drink.
  • Teach your child how to dress himself or herself by taking extra time to explain and practice.
  • Simple measures, such as looking at your baby while speaking or showing and naming objects, can help your baby learn to talk.
  • Help your child learn the importance of being clean and looking his or her best. Establish a daily routine for bathing and getting ready. As your child gets older, this will become increasingly important. Gradually add new tasks to the routine, such as putting on deodorant.
  • Encourage your child to learn, socialise, and be physically active.

An amazing feature of a Down syndrome patient is the excessive smiling and laughing ability. Life spans have increased dramatically for people with Down syndrome. In 1910, a baby born with Down syndrome often didn’t live to age 10. Today, someone with Down syndrome can expect to live to age 60 and beyond, depending on the severity of health problems.

Victoria Haruna

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