Decreased muscle tone at birth, asymmetrical or odd-shaped skull, round head with flat area at the back of the head, small skull, slanting eyes, small mouth with protruding tongue, depressed nose, broad short hands, single crease on the palm, retarded growth and development, delayed mental and social skills. All the above symptoms pertain to down syndrome. Down syndrome is the most common cause of mental retardation and malformation in a newborn. It occurs because of the presence of an extra 21st chromosome. Chromosomes are the materials that store people's genetic information. "Each newborn inherits 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 chromosomes from the father. Sometimes an accident occurs and one of the parents gives an extra chromosome. When the extra chromosome happens to be chromosome number 21, down syndrome occurs. Down syndrome is also called Trisomy 21 since the person has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two copies," says Dr. Deepti, senior Paediatric.
"The disease cannot be treated but if certain other diseases related to down syndrome, for example: heart diseases, endocrinal problems, diabetes, hearing defects, Alzheimer’s disease, early ageing are tackled, then the life span of the child is increased," adds Dr. Deepti.Children with down syndrome are not able to perform day-to-day activities and lack basic knowledge and capability of a child of his/her age. Only five per cent of them know how to read. These kids remain sweet, calm and patient all the time and are not short–tempered.
Dr. Deepali Batra, Consultant Clinical Psychologist suggests some ways for parents and kids to cope with the disease."Many parents don't even know that their child is suffering from down syndrome and are really confused on what should be done. A child with down syndrome must be given extra time, devotion and motivation for his development," says Dr. Deepali.
"When Golu was born, everything seemed fine. But the next day, the paediatrician came to see me, saying he had some concerns. Four days later, having undergone a series of tests, Golu was confirmed as having down syndrome. My husband was very accepting from the start, as, I suppose, was I to begin with. For the first six weeks, I was too busy learning to breastfeed and getting into a routine to think about anything else. Then, suddenly, I broke down. For three weeks, all I did was cry. It had just hit me, and I was devastated. I'd had friends who had given birth at the same time, and I had started to spot tiny differences between their babies and Golu. The other children were starting to hold their heads up, but mine wasn't," shares Divya, now a proud mother of Golu, who has excellent sketching skills. The work he does is appreciated and is displayed in exhibitions. For many mothers like Divya, the ways to cope with the disease are many.
Proper training is the ultimate solution for kid's improvement. Parents must give ample time to child in explaining day-to-day activities. Example how to brush and change clothes. It takes time for the kid to digest the manners. So, it's the parents who have to stay calm and strong.
Also, any therapy is not the solution for the disease. Parents have to motivate and encourage the child to grow and move further in life.
Since the child lacks the capability to understand, socially he must communicate and parents must make sure that they themselves and also the kid must not cut themselves with neighbours and friends.
Early diagnose of the child must be done and a counsellor's/psychologist's advice must be taken.
Kids must be sent to special schools that provide special training classes for such children. Also, NGOs provide vocational training to such kids who come out with hidden talents in fields like finance management, painting, music etc.
So kids having down syndrome, must get diagnosed for certain possible problems that they can have (heart disease and other problems) and tackle those to increase their life expectancy.
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