Down syndrome is one of the most common chromosome abnormalities in humans, found in one out of every 1000 newborns each year. However, the society, including most of the parents of babies with Down syndrome, has so much to learn about this, especially in developing countries like India.
Keeping this in mind, World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) was first observed in 2006 in many countries around the world. Acknowledging this, the United Nations General Assembly declared 21 March as World Down Syndrome Day – the 21st day of the third month; to signify the triplication of the 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome. Here, we are trying to simplify the disorder so that everyone knows and understands the fact that children with this condition are not sick or suffering; they just have one extra chromosome.
What is Down syndrome?
To put it simply, Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) is a chromosomal abnormality where a child is born with three copies of the 21st chromosome (as shown in the picture).
When babies are being developed, they receive 23 chromosomes from their mother contained in her egg and 23 chromosomes from their father contained in his sperm, totalling 46 chromosomes. Children with Down syndrome are born with an extra 21st chromosome.
Characteristics of children with Down syndrome:
While the effect of this disorder may differ from child to child, most of the affected ones are observed with the following physical characteristics:
● Flat facial features
● Small head and ears
● Short neck
● Bulging tongue
● Upward slanted eyes
● Atypically shaped ears
● Poor muscle tone
Children with Down syndrome usually have some degree of developmental disability, but it’s often mild to moderate. If not paid attention to, the children might show behavioural properties like:
● Impulsive behaviour
● Poor judgment
● Short attention span
● Slow learning capabilities
How to raise a kid with Down syndrome:
First thing a parent should do is learn as much as possible about the condition. After that, one can look for help at other support groups, talk to therapists and get in contact with other parents who have already been through this. Apart from this, here are few things that might help such parents:
● Give your child chores around the house. Just break them up into small steps and be patient
● Have your child play with other kids who do and don’t have Down syndrome
● Keep your expectations high as your child tries and learns new things
● Make time to play, read, have fun, and go out together
● Avoid saying “That’s wrong” to correct mistakes. Instead, say, “Try it again”
● As you work with doctors, therapists, and teachers, focus on your child’s needs rather than on the condition
● Look at what your child is learning at school and see if you can work those lessons into your home life
While all these tips will certainly help your children in the longer run, one thing they need the most from you is love. Kids with Down syndrome need and deserve as much love as other kids.
Contributing towards making the society more understanding towards children with special needs like in the case of Down syndrome, The Ponty Chadha Foundation runs Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan, a school for specially-abled kids. MBCN makes sure that these children get a holistic learning experience and a supportive environment, empowering them to achieve maximum independence while defeating their conditions.
On this World Down Syndrome Day, let us all take a pledge to create a society that is more supportive and loving towards the children with special needs.