What is Down Syndrome and how does it affect a child’s growth and development?
Down Syndrome, also known as Trisomy 21 is a genetic disorder where there is abnormal cell division during the development of a fetus in the womb. It is caused by an extra genetic material from chromosome 21.
Chromosomes are threadlike structures containing proteins and DNA which make up a gene. People with Down Syndrome have a 3rd 21st chromosome in each cell of the body, hence the various manifestations, for example, facial abnormalities, hand abnormalities, developmental delay ( growing slower than age group, intellectual disability, higher risk of certain diseases like heart defects, leukemia, and intestinal problems.
What are the risk factors?
- Advanced maternal age (for older mothers, it is thought that the older chromosomes get many problems during the division of a cell to form a baby in the womb).
- Having previously had a child with Down Syndrome.
- Having a Down Syndrome gene.
Common misconceptions about Down Syndrome
|All people with Down syndrome have the same type of impairment.
|Some people have mild impairment due to the type of Down Syndrome.
|Adults with Down Syndrome cannot be employed.
|With early intervention, these children can grow into adults with developed skills.
|They are always sick.
|Not true, they just have an added risk of certain diseases, and not all children will eventually develop those diseases or are born with them.
|It’s a hereditary disease.
|No, it’s a disorder of cell division to form a baby.
What are some common health issues that children with Down syndrome face and how are they managed?
- Born with heart disease (holes in the heart); this needs to be screened, and if present, there should be an early visit to the heart doctor for treatment.
- Higher likelihood of leukemia; there is a need for early screening.
- Speech difficulty due to a large tongue; one needs a speech therapist to address this.
- Hearing impairment; can also affect speech and there is therefore a need for early hearing screening and hearing aids if necessary.
- Reduced muscle tone (Weak muscles); this slows activity and affects posture. There is a need for specific exercises to strengthen muscles.
What advice would you give to parents of children with Down Syndrome?
- Occupational therapy to make these children as independent as possible e.g. dressing up.
- Frequent doctor reviews (2 to 3 times a year).
- Remain positive and supportive of the child.
- Most children need to continue with exercises, mental health development, and occupational therapy from home after a session with a speech-occupational therapist
Pediatric services at Rocket Health
- General pediatrics for children and adolescents to 17 years (consultations, laboratory investigations, medical treatment).
- Chronic care like asthma, and sickle cell disease.
- Immunisation services.
- Children clinics