In the United States, about one in every 700 babies is born with Down Syndrome, which works out to about 6,000 babies annually. Though Down Syndrome Awareness Month isn’t until October, here are some important facts about Down Syndrome.
- Down Syndrome occurs due to a chromosomal abnormality. What happens is a child is born with either a full or partial copy of chromosome 21. Having additional genetic material causes the mental and physical characteristics typical of people with Down Syndrome.
- Down Syndrome is named after John L. Down, who died in 1896 and originally classified Down Syndrome in 1862.
- A few of the common physical characteristics found in people with Down syndrome include small stature, low muscle tone and an upward eye slant and a deep crease across the center of the palm. It’s important to note that Down syndrome symptoms affect each person differently and the characteristics may be less present or more present depending on the individual.
- Aside from the previously described physical characteristics, people with Down syndrome may be predisposed to many different medical conditions including Alzheimer’s, heart defects and sleep apnea. Depending on the person, different Down syndrome symptoms like autism, celiac disease, seizures or cardiovascular disease may be present.
- One of those most common Down syndrome symptoms is cognitive delay, but this is usually found to mild to moderate and usually has no bearing on the level of skills or talents a kid with Down syndrome may develop as he or she grows older.
- On a positive note, the life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome has increased to almost 60 years old and some folks have lived even longer than that.
If you work with someone who has Down syndrome symptoms, here are some things you should consider as you work with them:
- One of the most important things to keep in mind about people with Down syndrome is that they thrive on routine. Having sameness and routine helps them be more independent in everyday life and that includes work. Breaking that routine can cause significant stress and if that sameness has to be broken for something like a meeting, it helps to give them a heads-up ahead of time so they can have time to adapt. Simply put, routine helps them relax, so try and respect their routines.
- Kids with Down syndrome and adults with Down syndrome work best with concrete ideas, so if you’re giving instruction be sure to give them specific directions. If you want them to close a certain door, point to the specific door to show them which one. If you want them to work on a certain computer, show them and tell them which computer they’re supposed to work on.
- Be aware that folks with Down syndrome tend to have photographic memory. This can be a good and a bad thing because they might have good and bad memories stored away as pictures. So it’s very possible a painting in an office might trigger a bad memory, so if a situation like that happens, try to make them feel as comfortable as possible.
- Folks with Down syndrome also can become fixed on organizing and arranging, so if you see them cleaning their desks for example, let them do what they need to in order to make it clean.
If you’re a parent of a kid with down syndrome, you can do several things to help them along:
- Educate yourself: Learn all that you can about Down Syndrome. The more you know, the more you’re going to be able to help your child.
- Love your child: Provide your child with a loving environment at home .Show them unconditional love in spades. Read to them, play with them and spend time with them.
- Support independence: A kid with Down Syndrome can learn independence. Teach them and encourage them to do simple things for themselves as they grow older such as grooming themselves or getting dressed.
By encouraging learning and giving them room to become independent, kids and adults with Down syndrome can learn to navigate the world around them and they can live long and happy lives.