Down Syndrome - Livingston County Special Services Unit

Down Syndrome
Down syndrome is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child
develops, both mentally and physically. It affects approximately 1 in every 800 babies. The
physical features and medical problems associated with Down syndrome can vary widely from
child to child. While some kids with DS need a lot of medical attention, others lead healthy lives.
Down syndrome affects kids' ability to learn in different ways, but most have mild to moderate
intellectual impairment. Kids with DS can and do learn, and are capable of developing skills
throughout their lives. They simply reach goals at a different pace — which is why it's important
not to compare a child with DS against typically developing siblings or even other children with
the condition. Kids with DS have a wide range of abilities, and there's no way to tell at birth what
they will be capable of as they grow up. If you're the parent of a child diagnosed with Down
syndrome, you may at first feel overwhelmed by feelings of loss, guilt, and fear. Talking with
other parents of kids with DS may help you deal with the initial shock and grief and find ways to
look toward the future. Many parents find that learning as much as they can about DS helps
alleviate some of their fears.
Experts recommend enrolling kids with Down syndrome in early-intervention services as soon as
possible. Physical, occupational, and speech therapists and early-childhood educators can work
with your child to encourage and accelerate development. Illinois provides free early-intervention
services to kids with disabilities from birth to age 3, so check with your doctor or a social worker
to learn what resources are available in your area. Once your child is 3 years old, he or she is
guaranteed educational services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Under IDEA, local school districts must provide "a free appropriate education in the least
restrictive environment" and an individualized education plan (IEP) for each child. Your school
district's child study team can work with you to determine what's best for your child, but
remember, any decisions can and should involve your input, as you are your child's best advocate.
Today, many kids with Down syndrome go to school and enjoy many of the same activities as
other kids their age. A few go on to college. Many transition to semi-independent living. Still
others continue to live at home but are able to hold jobs, thus finding their own success in the
Down syndrome occurs when an individual has three, rather than two, copies of the 21st
chromosome. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and
causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. One in every
733 babies is born with Down syndrome.
There are more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States.
Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels.
People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such
as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer's disease,
childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions. Many of these conditions are now treatable,
so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.
A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small
stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the
palm. Every person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these
characteristics to different degrees or not at all.
People with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect
them, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.
All people with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, but the effect is usually
mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each
individual possesses.
Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and
positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down
syndrome to develop their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.
Researchers are making great strides in identifying the genes on Chromosome 21 that
cause the characteristics of Down syndrome. Many feel strongly that it will be possible to
improve, correct or prevent many of the problems associated with Down syndrome in the
Internet Resources
National Down Syndrome Society
National Association for Down Syndrome
National Down Syndrome Congress
Down Syndrome: Health Issues
Medical essays on Down Syndrome and issues common to children with Down Syndrome.
Woodbine House
Publishes The Special-Needs Collection, a series of almost 50 books on disabilities and
related topics, including ADD, Down syndrome, early intervention and special education.
Special Olympics Illinois