Down syndrome is viewed by many as a disability, and therefore those who
are born with it may automatically be assumed to be dependent, and unable
to live a so-called “typical” life. If your child or relative
is living with Down syndrome, Homewatch CareGivers encourages you to foster
independence — because it’s likely they’re capable of
almost everything anyone else is.
With the proper developmental, educational, lifestyle and in-home help
support, your loved one -- and those who care for them — can lead
a fulfilling life.
What Is Down Syndrome?
Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, occurs when a baby is born with three copies
of chromosome 21, instead of two. The extra chromosome results in a range
of physical characteristics and developmental differences — all
of which are widely variable from person to person. According to the Mile
High Down Syndrome Association, one out of every 733 live births will
result in a baby born with Down syndrome, making this genetic condition
the most frequently occurring chromosomal abnormality.
Addressing Health & Lifestyle Challenges
When a baby is born with Down syndrome, there is an increased likelihood
that medical issues will be present. “Health issues are fairly common
in kids with Down syndrome,” says Mac Macsovits, Executive Director
of Mile High Down Syndrome Association. “The good news is that the
vast majority of health-related issues are treatable through modern medicine.”
Parents of Down syndrome children should know what health problems they
may face, and be prepared to provide the best health care possible as
Some of the Frequent Health Problems Include:
- Heart Defects
- Thyroid Issues
- Low Muscle Tone
Other Health Issues that Can Occur According to the Mile High Down Syndrome
- Increased Risk for Leukemia
- Sleep Apnea
- Celiac Disease
Enduring multiple health problems can be exhausting — on both the
person living with Down syndrome and their entire family. Consider finding
support through faith, professional counseling, or reaching out to community
resources and other families living with Down syndrome.
Risks of Obesity
Another common issue those living with Down syndrome face is obesity. Ensuring
that your loved one eats healthy foods in healthy portions is essential to
maintaining optimal weight and health, as is developing an exercise routine. To engage your loved one with Down
syndrome, make this healthy lifestyle a family affair — take family
walks through a local park frequently throughout the week, or try new
recipes to make healthy cooking and eating fun. Recreational activities,
such as swimming and dancing classes, are also available for children
with special needs, and can provide another opportunity for fitness.
Addressing Developmental & Learning Challenges
Babies and children who are living with Down syndrome oftentimes experience
developmental delays. Certain milestones, such as crawling, walking, and
the development of motor skills may be set back due to low muscle tone
and cognitive abilities. Speech may also progress at a slower rate, and
speech difficulties, such as stuttering can appear. In order to set a
child with Down syndrome up for developmental success, a family needs
to be fully committed to long-term physical and speech therapies, which
should begin as soon as possible.
Children with Down syndrome will also inevitably face intellectual challenges.
Due to the chromosomal abnormality present, IQ is affected, which can
make learning difficult. Though most people with Down syndrome won’t
develop an education level consistent with their chronological age, they
are still completely capable of excelling in certain areas.
Many with Down syndrome are able to attend public schools and classes with
other children, and may just need special attention in certain areas of
study. “People living with Down syndrome range from moderately to
severely delayed cognitively. With that being said, all people with Down
syndrome are capable of learning,” noted Macsovits. “The best
course of action when looking to help a person with Down syndrome learn
a new skill or trade is to approach the experience with patience in mind.
Down syndrome does not exclude people from learning, it simply means they
learn differently.” Families living with Down syndrome should never
give up hope, and should be persistent in helping their loved one achieve
the highest level of intellect possible.
Addressing Social & Autonomy Challenges
Although those living with Down syndrome may experience feelings of being
different from most of their peers, socialization is imperative to thriving.
“People living with Down syndrome face many challenges from a social
perspective. Many of these challenges however, are similar to those faced
by their typical peers,” said Macsovits. Encouraging your loved
one to make friends in any social situation is important, and there are
plenty of community programs and social groups that are a great way for
them to meet others.
“Treat them as the individuals that they are. Recognize that as with
any person, they will have strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes,”
noted Macsovits. “By creating a warm and welcoming environment for
your child to learn and grow in, and with support and resources, any child
will learn self-esteem and value.” It’s also important to
“ … applaud their efforts as they strive for independence
and empowerment,” added Macsovits.
Having a sense of
self-worth, self-esteem and self-confidence will provide the space for your loved one who’s living with Down
syndrome to experience a fulfilled, happy life.
Homewatch CareGivers Can Help
We are a premier caregiver agency, providing home care for all ages. Our
home care program
includes transportation services, help with activities of daily living,
and companion care — all of which may be helpful for families living
with a Down syndrome loved one, and also independently-living adults with
More about Mac Macsovits
After the birth of his first son, Guion, Mac Macsovits and his wife, Rebecca,
learned that Guion had Down syndrome. Mac then decided to concentrate
on learning more about his new son and the world of Down syndrome. He
began volunteering for Special Olympics Colorado, which eventually led
to a paid position as the Director of Development. In 2009, Mac formally
joined Mile High Down Syndrome Association as the second Executive Director.
Currently, Mac serves on the board for Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action
(a national Down syndrome non-profit).