If your unborn child has just been diagnosed with Down Syndrome (DS), you are no doubt experiencing a dizzying range of emotions, from guilt to apprehension to nervous joy. This post will tell you about specific needs and challenges your child can be expected to face, and how to address them.
You should be in regular touch of Child developmental specialist, genetic counselor an your pediatrician.
Physical Traits and Challenges
Down Syndrome Physical Markers
- DS symptomatology comprises a variety of unique physical characteristics like poor muscle tone, a protuberant tongue, and skin folded inwards at the corner of the eyes.
- DS leads to a number of behavioural and developmental delays. Traits like poor muscle tone lead to problems with everyday activities like walking, running, and grasping objects. DS children therefore require physiotherapy to develop capacities that their non-DS peers possess.
There are a number of early stage interventions that help children with DS learn critical movement and communication skills. They include:
- Physiotherapy: to help DS kids learn to crawl, walk and generally use and condition their limbs and muscles.
- Occupational therapy: to teach fine motor skills or skills requiring the use of specific muscle groups to perform small actions like grasping, pinching, and holding.
Potential Health Complications
Individuals with DS are vulnerable to a number of health and developmental problems too. Health issues comprise skin conditions like psoriasis, frequent ear infections, sleep apnoea, and poor vision. Other challenging issues include:
- Leukemia: Children with DS are more prone to developing this condition.
- Obesity: There is a higher incidence of obesity among DS individuals.
- Infectious diseases: Because their immune systems are compromised by this condition, DS people have a tendency to contract infectious diseases like pneumonia.
- Dementia: People with DS are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s as well as dementia (dementia symptoms can begin manifesting themselves as early as age 50.)
Parents need a network of health professionals, friends, and family to address many challenges presented by this condition. Membership of a local support group for DS individuals and their families is tremendously helpful.
As one child with Down Syndrome cannily put it, being born with DS is just like being born normal.
Like all normal children, children with DS are as similar to or different from each other, as they are to and from their non-DS friends and family.
With or without DS, let us remember that each child is a unique, complex, and valuable individual in his or her own right.