WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY: 21ST MARCH 2016
world down syndrome day
Down syndrome is a chromosomal anomaly caused by trisomy 21. Every human has two copies of each chromosome; however, as per the suggested and till date available literature, such individuals have an extra copy of their 21st chromosome. According to WHO (World Health Organization) the estimated incidence of Down syndrome is about 1 in 1000 live births worldwide. In United States of America, almost 3000-5000 children are born with Down syndrome every year. The data reveals that approximately 60-80% individuals with Down syndrome have hearing defects, 40-45% have congenital heart diseases and an increased amount of intestinal abnormalities. Due to various health reasons it was believed in 1900’s that individuals with Down syndrome have a short life span and hardly live beyond the age of 10 years; however, in current scenario approximately 80% adults with this condition reach the age of 50 years or more.
Common symptoms of Down syndrome include flat facial features, abnormally shaped body parts like head, neck, nose, hands etc., bulging tongue and poor muscle tone. Such individuals are mostly born with some amount of intellectual disability and susceptible to impulsive behaviours, poor judgment skills, and short attention span along with poor or slow capacities of learning. The condition also carries a variety of medical complications such and hearing and vision defects, heart conditions, bone related problems, sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, obesity, and dementia and Alzheimer’s in later ages.
Since it is a genetic problem, screening of the condition is very important for expecting mothers. Now a days it is offered in hospitals as a routine prenatal care. It becomes more important for expecting mothers over the age of 35 years, fathers to be aged 40 or above years, family history of any such condition in either to be mother or father and previous child with any such condition. If any of the condition is positive in any case, health care provider would suggest for genetic counselling.
Management of Down syndrome does not offer any permanent cure of the condition but surely offers a variety of intervention programs both for the individuals themselves and their care givers. Mental health professionals have managed to develop effective intervention programs to manage this condition and most mental health set ups offer these services. Most management programs offered to the individuals with Down syndrome include improvement of sensory skills, social skills, motor skills, improvement of language and cognitive abilities along with facilitating and encouraging self-help for routine chores. Intervention programs for the care givers include psycho educational sessions by providing them maximum information about the condition, teaching and demonstrating them the techniques being taught by professionals so that the learning continues at home also, reducing care giver burden, sharing and resolving the emotional outbursts of parents and other family members and help them to create a supportive environment at home for improvement of the condition in effective ways.
School is an important part of every child’s life and children with Down syndrome too have the right to avail and explore this environment. Since most children with Down syndrome have some amount of intellectual impairment it is difficult for them to learn as quickly as other normal children of their ages could learn; however, they are and they should be given ample opportunities to learn in a soothing and cooperative environment. There are many organizations providing services for such children and running special schools to give them adequate training to live a functional life.
Down syndrome is a cause of concern not only for mental health care providers but also for the family members due to its increasing rate. It is important for the parents to be to take the condition seriously and understand the impact of negligence of genetic counselling or ignoring the risk factors. Also, family members of individuals already diagnosed with Down syndrome need to understand the importance of early detection and early intervention of this condition. Many times such cases get worse due to inattention of family members, bullying by society and community people, and ignorance of school authorities.
Knowing the facts about any health condition helps to manage that more effectively and this article is an attempt to make you aware of Down syndrome so that you don’t regret later because of absence of knowledge. Help your loved ones with Down syndrome by taking them to a mental health professional. If the condition does not belong to your own family member you could definitely help others by sharing this information with them. Be a part of this awareness campaign and help the community.
If you have any query related to this article or any other mental health issue feel free to write me back.
Consultant Clinical Psychologist