Down Syndrome

Other common names: Trisomy 21

Basic description of need, symptoms and characteristics: Children born with Down syndrome have a wide variety of characteristics and medical concerns; however, they typically have distinct features. Some of the most common include a small stature, upward slanting eyes, unusually shaped ears and flattened facial features. They may also have short fingers, excessive flexibility and poor muscle tone. Children with Down syndrome may also meet developmental milestones later than other children and may also have some degree of cognitive delay.

Causes: Down syndrome is caused when the cells of chromosome 21 do not divide correctly. There are three types of abnormal cell division. All three abnormalities will have extra genetic material from chromosome 21. The exact cause is unknown; however research shows that older maternal age can contribute.

Possible complications (ie: additional needs/syndromes):  About half of children born with Down syndrome also have congenital heart defects, hearing and/or vision issues. They are also at greater risk for obesity, infections, leukemia, sleep apnea and dementia.   

Treatment: Children with Down syndrome will benefit from a comprehensive treatment plan addressing their health and developmental needs. This may include physical, speech and occupational therapy as well as care for any medical needs they may have.

Prognosis: Children with Down syndrome usually meet developmental milestones, but it may take them longer than it does a child without Down syndrome. Early intervention will give a child with Down syndrome the greatest chance for success. As many as 80% of adults with Down syndrome live to age 60, and many live even longer. Children born with Down syndrome are generally able to integrate into society and lead healthy, happy lives.