What is Down’s Syndrome?

Down’s Syndrome occurs at the rate of around 1 in 700 to 1 in 900 live births worldwide. There are currently 30,000 people in the United Kingdom with Down’s Syndrome. Babies with Down’s Syndrome are born at the same rate into families from ALL social, economic and racial backgrounds and to parents of all ages.

Trisomy 21 Down’s Syndrome is the result of an additional chromosome 21 (Trisomy 21). What causes the presence of this additional chromosome is not yet known. About 94% of all people with Down’s Syndrome fall into this group. This type of Down’s Syndrome is always an accident of nature. It can happen to anyone and there is no known reason why it occurs. All your baby’s chromosomes have come from you and your partner, including the extra one. Your baby will be more like you and any other children you may have than anyone else.

Translocation This type of Down’s Syndrome occurs in about 3% of babies. In about half of the people who have Translocation Down’s Syndrome, the translocation is a one-off occurrence and does not mean that it will happen again in any future pregnancies.

Mosaicism This type of Down’s Syndrome is also rare – only about “2-3% of people with Down’s Syndrome fall into this category. In Mosiac Down’s Syndrome the cells with the extra 21 chromosome are mixed with other ‘normal’ cells. Only a certain percentage of the cells are affected.

What can you do to help your baby now?

Remember that your new baby is a baby first, and the Down’s Syndrome is second. Babies grow and develop with the help of their parents and so will your baby.

Treat your baby as normally as possible. Try to make him or her as much a part of your family as you would with any other child. Babies need all the love and care that their parents can give and your baby is no exception. As well as general care and feeding your baby will need to be talked to, played with and cuddled just like any other baby.

Are there likely to be any health problems?

People with Down’s Syndrome can be as healthy as anyone else.

Sometimes people with Down’s Syndrome are born with a hole in the heart but even at only a few months old surgery can correct this and they go on to lead a very active lives. Some are born with a hearing impairment and many seem to have “glue ear” because of small ear canals. This is normally picked up at an early age through routine check-ups; some may need the help of a digital hearing aid. Sometimes they are taught Makaton (sign language) to help them communicate. It is possible that a visual impairment is detected and they might need to wear glasses.

Physical characteristics:

Facial features: A person with Down’s Syndrome’s face may be slightly broader with a flatter nasal bridge. Their eyes may appear to slant upward and have a small fold of skin on the inner corners called epicanthal folds. Their mouth may be small which might cause their tongue to appear large and poor muscle tone may cause the tongue to protrude. Their ears may be small, lower set on the head and tops may fold over.

Body: Babies with Down’s usually start out at average weight and length. As they grow individuals with Down’s Syndrome often fall behind their peers. People with Down’s Syndrome often have smaller hands and feet. The palm of their hands might have a single crease across it called a simian crease or a transverse palmar and the fifth finger may curve inward slightly.

What kind of life skills does a person with Down Syndrome have?

Babies with Down’s Syndrome are often given Physiotherapy; sometimes they are allocated an Occupational Therapist and can benefit hugely from Speech Therapy. In the Bexley borough you can be ask to be put on the waiting list for Portage and there is a weekly meeting for mums at the Toddy Tots playgroup, which is run by Bexley Mencap.

Children with Down’s Syndrome can be educated in many different ways. Most children with Down’s Syndrome attend a local playgroup and mainstream nursery. Some children with Down’s Syndrome attend mainstream primary schools and are given extra help from an allocated Teaching Assistant. Others may need to go to a special school for children with Special Educational Needs along with other children with disabilities.

Adults with Down’s Syndrome can live independently or in supported living housing. Others choose to live with their parents. Many individuals with Down’s Syndrome are capable of holding down a job, some work independently while others may need support in the workplace. Bexley Twofold help people with disabilities find work. Alternatively some adults with Down’s Syndrome prefer to attend day centres like Carlton Road or Smerdon where they can take part in activities such as gardening, arts and crafts, recreation and life skills. Some adults with Down’s Syndrome rely on parents and friends for transportation; some are able to use public transport independently. There are also opportunities of a college education for adults with Down’s Syndrome. North West Kent College have courses, which focus on life skills.