What is Down Syndrome?
Down Syndrome (DS) is a genetic disorder thought to occur in 1 of 800 births, causing cognitive and intellectual challenges in a child’s development (Heyn & Perlstein, 2011). DS is one of the foremost causes of cognitive impairment in children; however, with early interventions and medical advances, the potential for individuals with DS is expanding by the day.
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Although DS is associated with mild to a moderate learning disability, heart defects, gastrointestinal problems, thyroid disorders, and developmental delays such as difficulties in hearing or vision (Heyn & Perlstein, 2011), the interventions currently available guarantees individuals with DS and their families a stress-free, fulfilling and prosperous life. Indeed, life expectancy for people with DS has noticeably improved over the last couple of decades as a direct consequence of the improvement of medical care and social inclusion (Veek et al., 2009). Currently, an individual with this genetic disorder but in good health will live to celebrate his or her 55th birthday.
What individuals with Down Syndrome Need to Know
It is important to stress that just like their counterparts who have developed normally, individuals with DS can live to go through the formal system of education and secure rewarding careers if early intervention measures are taken (Veek et al., 2009). Like all people, individuals exhibiting symptoms and signs of DS possess a multiplicity of talents and abilities. As such, these individuals are always encouraged to take a positive outlook on life and develop a strong self-identity. In particular, individuals with DS should acknowledge the following.
DS is not linked to race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic standing. Anybody can be born with the defect to develop a positive coping mechanism. Individuals with DS need to realize that everybody has abilities and disabilities and that people have been able to turn their disabilities into abilities. A positive coping mechanism is essential in the management of DS (Veek et al., 2009).
The health challenges that associated with the genetic disorder can be treated, and there exist a wide range of resources with rich information on the management and coping of individuals and their families who are living with DS.
Research demonstrates that parents/family members of individuals with DS experience a high level of stress and associated adverse outcomes than parents/family members of average children (Veek et al., 2009). With modern intervention strategies and educational opportunities for children with DS, this need not be the case.
Parents/family members and educators of individuals with DS need to realize that the health, development, and capabilities of these individuals sorely rest on them, thus the need to provide an enabling environment that will encompass medical intervention, social skills development, educational nurturing, and social and emotional support to spur knowledge development, social and emotional control, and creativity in these individuals (Veek et al., 2009). As a matter of necessity, parents should:
- join social networks and medical platforms that provide information and emotional support so as to curtail high levels of stress associated with rearing children with DS;
- know that every individual with DS, like any other child exhibiting disabilities, is assured the basic right of a free and meaningful education offered in an environment that is least restrictive (NDSC, n.d.);
- make sure that in addition to fundamental education, children with DS are exposed to continued school experiences to assist in the development of a strong feeling of personal identity, self-respect, and self-confidence. Research has demonstrated that inclusion in routine classrooms provide a chance for these children to engage in mutually fulfilling relationships with others, hence triggering and reinforcing the development of cognitive and academic skills (NDSC, n.d.);
- ensure that children with DS undergo the necessary immunizations and screening procedures to enhance management.
Heyn, S.N., & Perlstein, D. (2011). Down Syndrome. MedicineNet.com. Web.
National Down Syndrome Congress. (n.d.). Web.
Veek, S.M.C., Kraaij, V., Garveniski, N. (2009). Down or up? Explaining positive and negative emotions in parents of children’s with Down Syndrome: Goals, cognitive coping and resources. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 34(3), 216-229.