A child born with Down’s syndrome(DS) is not an imbecile as people think. Down’s syndrome which was first described by Dr John Langdon Haydon Down in 1866 is a common chromosomal abnormality of a generalized syndrome. It is found once in every 600 to 650 live births. According to the Journal of Medical Genetics, 1 in every 865 live birth in a Nigerian hospital is recorded. This is bearing in mind that there are some unrecorded births. Almost all cases of Down’s syndrome can be attributed to an extra chromosome 21. It is medically called trisomy 21. This usually occurs when the woman’s age is above 35 years old. Sometimes the paternal age is also responsible for some cases.
Down’s syndrome can also be hereditary. Only about 5% of the cause of Down’s syndrome is unknown.
Although recent studies have shown that a test can be carried out to determine if a child has Down’s syndrome when it is still in the womb, a lot of parents don’t get to know until the baby is born. Most times, it is overwhelming for the parents’ mind to absorb.
WHAT MAKES THE CHILD WITH DOWN’S SYNDROME DIFFERENT?
**** Mental retardation is the significant feature of Down’s syndrome. The degree of mental retardation is not the same for everyone but the IQ is usually within the trainable range. Children with Down’s syndrome are not mentally abnormal in the beginning. They almost always have a nearly normal mental developmental as infants. This period of their life is followed by a relative decline during the next two years of their life and then a slower decline till about 4 years when the decline levels off.
****The physical features are obvious. The small rounded skull with a flat occiput, small nose with a depressed bridge, a protruding fissured tongue, small low set ears, short, thick neck amongst other features are peculiar to the child with Down’s syndrome. The joints are hyper flexible and lax which makes the child ‘floppy’
**** Some physical problems are associated with Down’s syndrome. Congenital heart disease, respiratory infections are some of the causes of death in infants. They always have structural defects, visual defects and inflammation of conjunctiva and lids are frequent occurrences. Hearing loss is also a defect they suffer .
**** Sexually, the development of both sexes may be delayed or incomplete. The genitalia of the male is small while mensuration usually occurs at the average age. Only a few affected women with Down’s syndrome have had offspring. The male is presumed to be infertile . The sexual drive in person with Down’s syndrome is diminished.
It is not an easy ride for the child nor parents. Now you know a bit of what they go through, perhaps you will be more patient and kind to people within this category. In our next post on Down’s syndrome, we will examine how we can be of help and helpful tips for parents.
Source: Whaley and Wong
Essentials of Pediatric Nursing.