It would probably be safe to say that most parents only wish the best for their children, right from the very beginning, when the woman discovers that she is pregnant. From that time on, all they want is for their child to be completely healthy in all aspects.
How should one react then when one goes for a routine check-up, including an ultrasound and screening blood test, only to be told that the child you are carrying may have Down Syndrome (DS)? For many parents, the news could be quite shocking, and may even leave some afraid and unsure if they are capable of raising a child with such a condition. Sadly, some, especially those who are misled or misinformed, may even resort to the cruel act of aborting their babies, just because they have DS.
If you or someone you know are parents of children with DS, do not fear. Many parents who have come before you learned to accept and deal with their children’s conditions, and ended up raising functional, contributing members of society. (A few examples are Chris Hebein, Molly Bourke, Elyse Mundelein and Zach Wincent).
What is Down Syndrome (DS)? According to the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Down Syndrome is a set of mental and physical symptoms brought about by having an extra copy of Chromosome 21.
Under normal circumstances, a fertilized human egg has 23 pairs of chromosomes. However, most people with Down Syndrome have an extra copy of Chromosome 21 (also called trisomy 21 because there are three copies of this chromosome instead of two). The presence of trisomy 21 leads to changes in the body’s and brain’s normal development. DS is actually the most common chromosomal irregularity in humans.
People with DS differ greatly in how they are affected, with health problems and lagging mental and physical development as common symptoms. Some children may also have delayed language development, and most kids with DS show these common physical traits: • Flat face with an upward slant to the eye, short neck, and differently-shaped ears • Deep crease in the palm of the hand • White spots on the iris of the eye • Poor muscle tone, loose ligaments • Small hands and feet
DS-affected children are also often known to exhibit the following health conditions: • Congenital heart disease • Skeletal problems • Hearing problems • Eye problems, such as cataracts • Intestinal problems, such as blocked small intestine or oesophagus • Thyroid dysfunctions • Dementia, similar to Alzheimer’s disease
Since Down Syndrome is an incurable condition, parents must make sure their children are assessed and given therapy as soon as possible, as early intervention has helped many kids with DS live productive lives all the way into adulthood. This usually involves speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and special education and attention in school.