Down Syndrome

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Down Syndrome People with Down syndrome are first and foremost human beings who have recognizable physical characteristics due to the presence of an extra chromosome 21. The estimated incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births. Each year approximately 3,000 to 5,000 children are born with this chromosome disorder. It is believed there are about 250,000 families in the United States who are affected by Down syndrome. Children with Down syndrome are usually smaller, and their physical and mental developments are slower, than youngsters who do not have Down syndrome. The majority of children with Down syndrome function in the mild to moderate range of mental retardation. However, some children are not mentally retarded at all; they may function in the borderline to low average range; others may be severely mentally retarded. There is a wide variation in mental abilities and developmental progress in children with Down syndrome. Also, their motor development is slow; and instead of walking by 12 to 14 months as other children do, children with Down syndrome usually learn to walk between 15 to 36 months. Language development is also markedly delayed. It is important to note that a caring and enriching home environment, early intervention, and integrated education efforts will have a positive influence on the child's development. Although individuals with Down syndrome have distinct physical characteristics, generally they are more similar to the average person in the community than they are different. The physical features are important to the physician in making the clinical diagnosis, but no emphasis should be put on those characteristics otherwise. Not every child with Down syndrome has all the characteristics; some may only have a few, and others may show most of the signs of Down syndrome. Some of the physical features in children with Down syndrome include flattening of the back of the head, slanting of the eyelids, small skin folds at the inner corner of the eyes, depressed nasal bridge, slightly smaller ears, small mouth, decreased muscle tone, loose ligaments, and small hands and feet. About fifty percent of all children have a gap between the first and second toes. The physical features observed in children with Down syndrome usually do not cause any disability in the child. Although many theories have been developed, it is not known what actually causes Down syndrome. It has been known for some time that the risk of having

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