What You Need To Know About Down Syndrome
FIRST, A LITTLE BACKGROUND
- Down syndrome was discovered by Dr. Langdon Down in 1866
- It is a chromosomal anomaly, or mix-up, in the genetic blue-print that occurs at conception
- Individuals with Down Syndrome have an extra #21 chromosome
- Approximately 1 in every 691 babies live births in BC is a child with Down syndrome
WHAT DOWN SYNDROME LOOKS LIKE
- Children with Down Syndrome have some physical, intellectual, and emotional developmental delays
- Children with Down Syndrome may also have other medical conditions
- Physical characteristics may include almond-shaped eyes, a single palmar crease on one, or both hands, and small facial features
- Down syndrome is not related to race, religion or socio-economic status
GETTING TO KNOW INDIVIDUALS WITH DOWN SYNDROME
Children with Down Syndrome actually share more similarities than differences with other children – they learn, laugh, play, and want friends.
Individuals with Down Syndrome benefit from loving parents, early medical and educational attention and positive public attitudes.
Children with Down Syndrome have a full complement of emotions and attitudes, are creative and imaginative in play and pranks, and grow up to live independent lives with varying degrees of support and accommodations needed.
On standard IQ tests, children with Down Syndrome most often score in the mild to moderate range of mental handicap. These tests do not measure many important areas of intelligence, and one will often be surprised by the memory, insight, creativity, and cleverness of the child with Down Syndrome.
Young people with Down Syndrome have dreams and the determination to reach their goals. They learn in regular classrooms in their neighborhood schools with the children who will one day be their co-workers, neighbors, and adult friends. Young adults hold diverse and meaningful jobs, maintain their own households and make significant contributions to their communities.
Early intervention, through IDP worker and parents, benefit a child with Down Syndrome, as does speech and language therapy.
Academic intelligence is not the only measure of a person’s worth – qualities such as happiness, honesty, friendliness, determination and a free-spirited attitude to life help break through social and personal prejudices, opening doors to full membership in society.
Living with Down Syndrome and Dementia: Symptoms, Challenges, and Coping Strategies
It is estimated that more than 564,000 Canadians are currently living with dementia and that over 1.1 million Canadians are directly or indirectly affected by it. Sadly, people with Down Syndrome are more likely to develop dementia, with over half likely to do so as they age.
What is dementia?
Caused by the degeneration of brain cells, ‘dementia’ refers to the decline in someone’s mental capabilities, to the extent that it significantly affects their day-to-day life. This often means that patients need full-time help with everyday activities.
There are different types of dementia – the two most common types being Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. People with Down Syndrome are particularly susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases with age and, due to the relatively short life expectancy of people with Down Syndrome, they are more likely to develop it at an earlier age than others.
What are the symptoms of dementia?
The symptoms of dementia vary greatly. These may include noticeable problems with memory and language, a shift in behavior, mood and/or thinking skills, and difficulty paying attention. Symptoms often progress relatively quickly from their initial stages.
What treatment is available for dementia?
There is no cure for dementia. Medications are available to ease symptoms in the short-term, but none have been recommended for people with Down Syndrome. At present, advances in treatment very much depend on research into dementia and patient involvement in clinical studies.
I’m caring for someone with dementia. How do I cope?
For loved ones in particular, looking after patients suffering from dementia can be very challenging and mentally draining. It can be daunting and upsetting to see someone close to you losing their cognitive abilities and struggling to communicate. People with dementia can be left feeling frustrated and isolated. Their behavior can also become quite erratic, and sometimes aggressive, which can be hard to deal with.
For caregivers, there are strategies that you can use to help you cope with the challenges of dementia effectively. These include speaking slowly and clearly, involving dementia patients in engaging activities, having a routine and being as positive as possible towards the patient.