What is Down Syndrome?
Parenting a child with special needs, like Down Syndrome requires more patience and love. As a parent, it is important to understand that your child does not have a disease but a genetic condition caused by an interplay of chromosomes. This may lead to certain learning disabilities and medical anomalies, but children with down syndrome can have beautiful lives full of amazing experiences. In fact, most research supports that though the pace of growth of a child with down syndrome maybe slower than his peers but, if they are guided properly, they can grow up to be amazingly talented people. Also, with right intervention program, the life expectancy for a baby with Down Syndrome, can be extended.
To explain medically, the causes for Down Syndrome is genetic. She has an extra copy of chromosome along with the regular 23 pairs. In many instances, a Down Syndrome baby, can be detected in the womb itself through ultrasounds. It is a life-long condition, yet your child’s skills can be enhanced, and the quality of life improved if detected at an early stage. With proper professional advice and rehabilitation guidance you can help your child adjust better.
Symptoms of Down Syndrome
A child with Down Syndrome possesses certain physical and mental effects or signs of Down Syndrome such as:
- Low muscle tone and loose joints
- Single deep crease in the palm of hands
- Round face profile with small head
- Flat facial features, slightly flat nose
- Slanting upward eyes and small ears
- Short stature, over all
- Developmental milestone delay (walking, talking, etc.) with varying degrees of cognitive (understanding, thinking, reasoning, etc.) delay as well
- Fragile health condition, pertaining to hearing problem, vision problems, heart problem, blood conditions (anemia, higher risk of leukemia, etc.), weak immunity (higher risk of getting infections)
- More likely to have weight issues with thyroid problems, and other related skin problems
With right medical-techno knowledge and therapy 80% of children with Down Syndrome can now reach the age of 60 and maintain a good quality of life
It is essential to plan proper intervention programme for your baby with this condition. In addition, the earlier you can start with therapy, the better it is. Post a diagnosis for Down Syndrome, work with your child and a team of professionals and health experts to provide her a quality life. Your experts may include:
- Doctors – You will require specialised doctors, in addition, because of the weak immune system and fragile health condition.
- Occupational therapist – Occupational therapy experts needed to be consulted for child’s sensory-motor integration.
- Speech therapist – If your child is having speech delay, or other difficulty related to talking (unclear speech, stuttering, etc.) consulting speech therapist becomes essential.
- Special educators – To start the intervention early, consult special educators. They will help you plan Individualized Education Programme (IEP) for your child in a skill appropriate way.
- Psychologist – It is helpful to consult a mental health expert for your child’s behaviour modification; above all to ease your own stress level.
- Genetic Counselling Expert – In case planning for a second baby, after having a child with Down Syndrome condition, the risk of recurrence is 3% in case of males and almost about 10-15% in case of females. Get a genetic counselling done to determine the risk factor and make an informed decision.
Parenting a child with Down Syndrome
Without stressing much, try to focus on single goal at a time to train your baby. Always begin with simple tasks like:
- brushing teeth,
- taking small steps to walk,
- combing hair,
- put-on dress,
- speaking single word with clarity,
- holding a glass and drinking from it, etc.
Though Down syndrome cannot be cured and there is no treatment for it, however with early intervention your child can get integrated settle in with the mainstream. Also, after reaching age 3, a child with Down Syndrome, has every right to education under Individuals with Disability Act (IDEA). However, your child may face difficulty with mainstream education, and for this reason IEP is important here. Above all have patience and encourage your child for any little effort made towards improvement. Focus more on social and vocational skill development rather than academics to keep her happy and you as a parent, proud.
It is also essential to understand that you cannot prevent Down Syndrome. There are hardly any symptoms of Down Syndrome during pregnancy and sometimes the causes of Down Syndrome are beyond your control; it maybe detected during pregnancy and your doctor will counsel you on it. But what is within your reach is to provide the best you can do for your special child. There are focussed organisations as well which will help you deal with it better.