Down Syndrome and Happiness
Down syndrome is a congenital disease that affects many areas of functioning throughout the developmental process. Caused by a chromosome abnormality, the condition was first described in 1866 by Dr. Langdon Down. There is a grouping of common traits observed in individuals with Down syndrome, and there are also comorbid physical, behavioral, and neurological conditions that often coexist with the disorder. However, despite the lack of cure for the disease, many Down syndrome individuals live happy, fulfilled lives.
Individuals with Down syndrome have a unique appearance that is easily identifiable. Possibly the most distinct physical attribute of the disorder is displayed in the eyes, which exhibit exaggerated epicanthal folds and slanting. People with Down syndrome also have a flattened nose and smaller ears that may fold at the top. The mouth can also be smaller, which is the cause for these individuals’ appearing to have a larger tongue. In adulthood, individuals with Down syndrome tend to be shorter than other adults.
Down syndrome results in a combination of birth defects on a variety of systems. The person with Down syndrome experiences mental retardation with its accompanying behavioral and developmental deficits. Other physical systems at increased risk for disease include the cardiovascular system. Down syndrome patients often have comorbid heart defects to the rate of 40-50%, with the most common defects being atrioventricular septal and ventricular septal defect. While some Down syndrome related cardiac abnormalities are treatable with medication, others are serious enough to require major surgical intervention. Often, these surgeries are performed early on in the infant’s lifetime.
Due to the pervasiveness of the disease and a better educated society on its limitations, many down syndrome individuals lead very happy lives. While the condition often translates to a lower-than-average IQ, down syndrome children attend public schools and often complete educational goals through college.
- Sports and extracurricular activities with friends are normal activities and many limitations can be accommodated for in many situations.
- As adults, living independently is possible, though many down syndrome individuals live together to help with each other’s limitations.
- Just recently, a woman with downs syndrome became the first model to walk at New York Fashion Week.
Many social differences are also associated with children who have Down syndrome. For example, they may or may not be allowed integration into the mainstream classroom, although inclusion is believed to assist other children in learning acceptance while also providing the Down syndrome children with valuable social interaction. Fortunately, contemporary educational environments are exhibiting an increase in inclusive programming, and emphasize the importance of teacher and parent attitudes to the success of such programs.
Clearly, the social, physical, behavioral, and psychological experiences of individuals with Down syndrome are unique from the rest of the population. With many distinct attributes and complications associated with the disorder, this group requires interventions that are sensitive to their individual needs. Researchers have defined interventions appropriate for a variety of needs, including those that can be done early on in the individual’s lifetime.
According to Capone, the Down syndrome patient in the first year of life expresses delays in language and performance
cognitive milestones that are apparent to both parents and physicians. While most but not all of Down syndrome children learn to speak, there are interventions that may assist them to decrease the gap in verbal skills. Occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other interventions should be introduced during the first year of life, and developmental functioning should be monitored along the way. Furthermore, new therapies addressing neurocognitive functioning in Down syndrome children have been delineated, including pharmacological interventions. Research is presently establishing the potential for pharmacological substances to assist young adults with Down syndrome to achieve enhanced skills of communication and behavior.
Down syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality with a collection of characteristic symptoms and comorbid risks. Through early intervention, individuals with this disorder can be given the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential. Though the life expectancy of individuals with Down syndrome is shorter than that of the general population, it has been greatly extended through the advancements of medicine and surgery, and contemporary behaviorists have provided guidance on best practices for helping these individuals live fully during their short lives.