By Fidelia Asogwa
The inability of some group of children to cope both in learning educational wise and in other areas of life at an early age has become increasingly high that gives great concern as to what could be the problem.This is not just having a dull brain child but specialized case that requires an extra effort to even make such a child realize his existence. This condition is generally termed as down’s syndrome.Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition which causes learning disabilities in children with distinctive physical features. This is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21. In children with Down Syndrome, one of the chromosomes did not separate properly. The baby ends up with three copies of Chromosome 21 instead of two. This extra Chromosome causes problems as the brain and physical features develop.
What Causes Down’s Syndrome?
Normally, each cell in the human body contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, which contain the genetic material, that determines all our inherited characteristics. At conception, we received half of each chromosome pair from our mother and the other half from our father. But individuals with the most form of down’s syndrome, trisomy 21, have an extra chromosome making children that have this problem to have 47 chromosomes instead the normal 46.
No one knows exactly why this Chromosomal condition occurs, but it does appear to be related to the age of the woman and in extention the age of the man who donated the sperm that formed the baby as well. The older a woman is when she gives birth, the higher the risk of her baby having down syndrome, more especially if the husband is older too. At 45, the risk is one in 30 babies. Children with Down’s Syndrome are often identified at birth as a result of the physical characteristics associated with the syndrome. Some children exhibit only a few characteristics while others exhibit many. Because some of these features are also seen in people without Down’s syndrome, genetic testing must be done to confirm diagnosis. The most common features associated with Down’s syndrome include:
- Reduced muscle tone (babies appear floppy)
- Flat facial features, with a small nose
- Upward slant to the eyes
- Small vertical skin folds on the inner corner of the eyes
- Small and abnormally shaped ears
- Flat back of head
- Short fingers
- Enlarged tongue that tends to stick out.
Down Syndrome Diagnosis and Treatment
Pregnant women are offered routine screening for Down’s Syndrome during pregnancy. The results of these tests, together with the age of the woman are used to predict the risk of Down’s Syndrome, which becomes increasing common as the woman gets older. If this suggests a high risk, more diagnostic tests must be done to conform the diagnosis. This does not mean all older women give birth to babies with Down’s Syndrome. Many older women give birth to healthy normal children with normal learning abilities.
Ultrasound screening for Down’s Syndrome is done with a special type called nuchal translucency. This focuses on measuring the space and the back of the baby’s neck. Babies with Down’s Syndrome usually have more fluid in their neck than normal.
The antenatal tests used to diagnose Down’s Syndrome are Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) after 10 weeks of pregnancy, or amniocentesis after 15 weeks of pregnancy. These tests do carry a small risk of miscarriage because they require the insertion of a needle into the fluid surrounding the foetus or into the placenta in order to examine the baby’s chromosomes. These tests accurately diagnose. Down’s syndrome 98% to 99% of the time.
If the baby is carried till birth, physical characteristics usually lead the doctor to suspect Down’s syndrome. A genetic test called a Karyotype must be done to confirm diagnosis. A Ikaryotype involves testing a small amount of the baby’s blood.
There are types of Down Syndrome:
- Trisomy 21: Trisomy 21 means there is an extra copy of Chromosome 21 in every cell. This is the most common form of Down Syndrome.
- Mosaicism: Mosaicism means there is an extra chromosome is some but not all of a child’s cells. Individuals with mosaic Down Syndrome tend to have fever symptoms.
- Translocation: In this condition, children have only extra part of chromosome 21. There are 46 total chromosomes. However, one of them has an extra piece of Chromosome 21 attached.
Possible people that can have Down Syndrome Children
- Some women over the ages of 40
- Males 50 years and above
- People who carry the genetic translocation.
A Down Syndrome infant can be born a normal size. However, development is twice as slow as for an unaffected child. There is usually some degree of mental retardation that coned be mild, moderate or worse.
Mental and social development delays learning ability and this means that the child will have
- Impulsive behaviour
- Poor judgment
- Short attention span
- Slow learning capabilities
Medical complications often accompany Down Syndrome. These are caused by the extra chromosome. These may include:
- Congenital heart defects
- Hearing loss
- Poor vision
- Hip problems, such as dislocations
- Chronic constipation
- Sleep apnea (interrupted breathing during sleep)
- Dementia (throught and memory problems)
- Late tooth growth causing problems with chewing.
Treating Down Syndrome
There is no cure for Down Syndrome. However, parents can provide early intervention and opportunities to help their child with Down syndrome succeed. Early intervention programme promotes a child’s learning. They offer the best chance for success.
In these programmes, special education teachers and therapists will help your child learn:
- Sensory Skills
- Social skills
- Language and cognitive abilities.
A team of physicians and specialists can help provide medical care and manage the medical complications. Because obesity can be particularly dangerous to the health of children with Down Syndrome, it is important to encourage physical activity and avoid high calorie foods. However, before beginning exercise or sports, the child’s hip, neck and spine should be examined.
It is important to teach children with Down Syndrome about being independent and staying safe. Parents should establish a support network in the family and community. Learn as much as possible about your child’s condition. This can help you understand what it means as your child grows and develops
Preventing Down’s Syndrome
It is true that a woman cannot force herself over a man who does not desire to marry her but it is important that a woman should not be over selective or over career conscious refusing to settle down with a man who may have asked for her hand in marriage at an early age. The long and short of all this grammer is that it is important for a woman to marry at a considerable age in order to avoid the complications that can result to giving birth to children with Down’s Syndrome characteristics.
It is believed that nothing happens to a man’s reproductive system due to age as with that of a woman, but even though sperm production cannot stop as far as a man lives but the quality does decline with increase in age. In other words, it is important that a man should also marry early enough to avoid this problem. When a man is marrying for the first time at the age of 48 and above with a woman 45 and above, the risk is usually higher. If such marriage must push through to child bearing, it is important you both take some hormonal balancing treatments and also go to genetic doctor or counselor before having children. But this does not mean older couples do not give birth to normal children.
But if you already have children with Down’s Syndrome, it is necessary you take them to special schools where the techniques to teach them are available.
As a woman, whether you married early of late, once you conceive start early to present your child before God.
Start praying for your baby as soon as test confirms, you are pregnant. You must pray in faith begging God for proper formation of your baby from the beginning till the delivering and even as the child is growing.