Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes problems with the way the brain and body develop. Children with Down syndrome grow more slowly, learn more slowly, and think and solve problems more slowly than other children.
Children with Down syndrome may reach goals and milestones more slowly, but most can go to school, get jobs, and enjoy many of the same kinds of things that other kids do.
Our bodies are made up of cells. Inside the cells are tiny tubes called chromosomes. People normally have a total of 46 chromosomes. Most children with Down syndrome have a total of 47 chromosomes. Down syndrome is also called Trisomy 21 because of extra copies of chromosome 21. What causes this extra chromosome and how it causes the problems of Down syndrome is not known.
The risk of having a child with Down syndrome increases as a woman gets older, and the risk is greatest when the mother is over 35 years of age.
There are many symptoms, but not all children with Down syndrome will have all of these symptoms, and may have some that are not on this list.
Children with Down syndrome may have:
Your child may be shorter than other children at the same age. He may also tend to keep his mouth open with his tongue sticking out.
Children with mild learning problems may:
Children with severe learning problems may:
Some children with Down syndrome have problems with:
Most children with Down syndrome are gentle, cheerful, and patient. They usually do not have other behavior problems. However, they can have health and behavior problems just like any other child, such as:
Down syndrome may be diagnosed before birth, or shortly after birth during a baby's first physical exam.
The diagnosis before birth may be based on:
The diagnosis after birth is usually based on how the child looks. The diagnosis is confirmed by a blood test on the baby that checks the baby’s chromosomes.
There is no one best treatment for all children with Down syndrome. Before you decide on your child's treatment, find out what your options are. Learn as much as you can and make your choice for your child's treatment based on your child's needs.
Babies with Down Syndrome may be able to get special services within the first year of life if they need it.
Usually children are placed in public schools and the school district provides all needed services. These will include working with a speech therapist, occupational therapist, school psychologist, social worker, school nurse, or aide. You may want to visit public schools in your area to see the type of program they offer to special needs children.
A team of professionals will help evaluate your child and put a plan together. You may also ask your healthcare provider to review the plan. Ask and find out all the services that may be available for your child.
Speech, language, occupational, and physical therapy are very important to help your child. A cognitive behavioral therapist can help your child learn to manage stress. Other therapies may include art therapy, music therapy, or sensory integration, which helps reduce your child's sensitivity to touch or sound. Treatment will also include doing activities at home.
Your provider will treat ear infections, heart conditions, seizures, or other problems as needed. Medicine may be used to treat anxiety or behavioral problems. These medicines must be prescribed by a doctor experienced with their use in children with this disorder.
Parents often learn of new or alternative treatments through friends or the media. No diet or dietary supplement has been proven to treat Down syndrome. Your provider can help you decide if alternative treatments could help or harm your child.