One birth in every 800 or 1000 may result in a child with Down syndrome. The risk of Downs (formerly known as Mongolism) rises with maternal age.
It is characterized by typical facial characteristics – oblique eye fissures, small chin, flat nasal bridge, protruding tongue due to a smaller than normal mouth etc. and by lower cognitive abilities.
Because of the typical facial and physical characteristics, it is easy to indentify Down syndrome in a child at birth. Early intervention is one of the keys to deal with a child who has Downs.
This can help a child receive screening for common problems and get requisite treatment. Children with Downs do very well in conducive family environments and when vocational training is provided.
It can be heart rending to find that a child with Downs Syndrome has been born, however when a child is provided with a conducive environment that fosters proper development, the child is able to have a good quality of life.
Though certain genetic limitations, both physical and mental cannot be overcome, a child can be helped to make not inconsiderable progress.
If a child is born with Downs, certain tests are required to be immediately performed at birth to isolate conditions such as the red reflex, congenital cataracts, strabismus, Hirschsprung’s disease. The child should also be screened for congenital heart problems as well as preexisting leukemia. Thyroid function is also required to be tested. Screening for hearing loss is also routine. Screening for sleep apnea should also be performed.
At birth, there should be early intervention that will help coordinate and plan efficacious programs for development and learning. Cognitive development among Down’s children can be very variable, and communications and language skills could also be impaired.
Sometime plastic surgery is considered to alter appearance of the child with Downs. This is done for better social assimilation and to correct physical defects that give rise to speech problems. This is however controversial and not to be recommended since it may not even have palpable results.
Children with Down will typically have a lower IQ than other children and they also grow slower physically. It can be tiring and challenging, in the extreme to have a child with Downs, however one could look at it another way – that this special child is a gift sent down to make one a better person.
Suddenly the artifice and the importance of possessions are stripped away and a person learns to recognize what is really important in life. It can be an opportunity for learning real selflessness and for spiritual growth.