Down syndrome occurs in about 1 in 700 live births, and is said to be the single most common cause of learning disabilities in children. It is a condition in which a child has an extra chromosome 21, which causes delays in their physical and mental development. The associated health problems vary, with some being more severe than others, but as more and more is discovered about the condition, early diagnosis and proper treatment have proven to be invaluable in dispelling some of the myths associated with it. It is possible for adults with the syndrome to live virtually independent lives with a little support from friends and neighbors.
Children with Down syndrome need to be seen as people first and not viewed only in light of their condition. They will require the same care and support you would give to any other child. With the right attitudes and opportunities they continue to develop well into their adult years, and many persons with the condition go on to become very responsible adults.
It is important to encourage and not exclude children with Down syndrome from regular educational and social activities. This is critical to their development. They require a secure and supportive home environment in which to develop, and tend to thrive in an interactive and inclusive educational setting. In terms of learning, they tend to grasp information more easily when it is visual rather than spoken. As a result, many children are taught to use sign language at an early age and are also encouraged to read. This leads to an improvement in their speech and language.
Their intellectual development occurs at a somewhat uneven pace. Their empathy and social skills tend to be very strong throughout their lives; however, their motor skills can sometimes take a long time to develop. This impedes their ability to play. But the skills that tend to lag behind all the others are their language and speech. The fact that they excel in the area of their non-verbal reasoning means they can be somewhat frustrated as they are unable to verbalize their thoughts and feelings at the level they would wish.
During childhood, children with Down syndrome will need special care as they tend to be more susceptible to childhood illnesses. The ones to which they are prone include congenital heart disease, visual impairment, infections and underactive thyroid. In their early years they are less resistant to infections and require greater care especially during infancy. However, they do respond well to conventional treatments.
During the past decade the outlook and future of persons with Down syndrome has improved due to medical advances and effective advocacy by adults with the condition. Medical advances have lead to a greater understanding of how to treat the developmental needs of children with Down syndrome from a very early age. As a result, more adults with the condition who need only minimal support are now able to live on their own, hold jobs and marry.