Down’s syndrome, also known as Down syndrome, is a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and characteristic physical features.
Around 775 babies are born with the condition each year in England and Wales.
Many babies born with Down’s syndrome are diagnosed with the condition after birth and are likely to have:
- reduced muscle tone leading to floppiness (hypotonia)
- eyes that slant upwards and outwards
- a small mouth with a protruding tongue
- a flat back of the head
- below-average weight and length at birth
Although children with Down’s syndrome share some common physical characteristics, they do not all look the same. A child with Down’s syndrome will look more like their mother, father or other family members than other children with the syndrome.
People with Down’s syndrome also vary in personality and ability. Everyone born with Down’s syndrome will have a degree of learning disability, but the level of disability will be different for each individual.
What causes Down’s syndrome?
Down’s syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21 in a baby’s cells.
In the vast majority of cases, this isn’t inherited and is simply the result of a one-off genetic mistake in the sperm or egg.
There is a small chance of having a child with Down’s syndrome with every pregnancy, but the likelihood increases with the age of the mother. For example, a woman who is 20 has about a 1 in 1,500 chance of having a baby with the condition, while a woman who is 40 has a 1 in 100 chance.
There is no evidence that anything done before or during pregnancy increases or decreases the chance of having a child with Down’s syndrome.
Life with Down’s syndrome
Although there is no “cure” for Down’s syndrome, there are ways to help children with the condition develop into healthy and fulfilled individuals who are able to achieve the level of independence right for them. This includes:
- access to good healthcare, including a range of different specialists
- early intervention programmes to provide support for children and parents
- good parenting skills and an ordinary family life
- education and support groups to provide information and help for parents, friends and families
Improved education and support has led to more opportunities for people with Down’s syndrome. These include being able to leave home, form new relationships, gain employment and lead largely independent lives.
However, it is important to remember each child is different and it is not possible to predict how individuals will develop.e
Associated health conditions
There are a number of disorders that are more common in people with Down’s syndrome. These include:
- hearing and vision problems
- heart disorders, such as congenital heart disease
- thyroid problems, such as an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
- recurrent infections, such as pneumonia
All children with Down’s syndrome have some degree of learning disability and delayed development, but this varies widely between individual children.
Children with the condition may be slower to learn skills such as:
A child with Down’s syndrome will gain these skills eventually – it simply takes more time.
Around 1 in every 10 children also experience additional difficulties such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
If you have a child with Down’s syndrome and they require a specialist pushchair, perhaps if they an older child and need a larger buggy or if they have challenging behaviour or no sense of danger and need this to keep them safe when out and about – please contact us as we may be able to help you.
Freedom for Kids Helpline: 01670 458624